Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Quốc Ngữ||Tết Nguyên Ðán|
Tết is celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year (or the Spring Festival) and shares many of the same customs. It is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (around late January or early February) until at least the third day. Many Vietnamese prepare for Tết by cooking special holiday foods and cleaning the house. On Tết, Vietnamese visit their families and temples. Children are treated specially on Tết; they are given money in red envelopes, called lì xì, from their elders. Other common practices on Tết include firecrackers, dragon dances and lion dances which ward off evil spirits and bring in good luck for the new year.
Preparations for Tết start months before the actual celebrations. People would try to pay off their debts in advance so that they can be debt-free on Tết. Parents would buy new clothes for their children so that they can don them.
Traditionally, the three kitchen guardians for each house (Ông Táo), depart to heaven on the 23rd day of the last month of the Chinese calendar. They were to report to the Jade Emperor about the events in that house over the past year. Their departure is marked by a modest ceremony where the family offers sacrifices for them to use on their journey.
In the days before Tết, each family would traditionally cook special holiday food known as bánh chưng and bánh tét. Preparations for these foods are quite extensive, and cooking them can take several days. Family members would often take turns to keep watch on the fire overnight, telling each other stories about past Tếts.
Each home is thoroughly swept and decorated with flowers and offerings for ancestors by the night before Tết. At midnight, many families would light firecrackers to welcome the new year (this practice is recently banned in Vietnam). In the morning, actual Tết celebrations begin.
The first day of Tết is reserved for the nuclear family. Children would receive lì xì from their elders. Usually, children would don their new clothes and give their elders the traditional Tết greetings before receiving the money. Since the Vietnamese believe that the first visitor a family receives in the year would set their fortunes for the entire year, people would never enter any house on the first day without being invited first. In big cities, the streets are usually empty as most people stay at home or have left the city to visit their close relatives in the countryside.
Sweeping during Tết is taboo, since it symbolizes sweeping the luck away. In southern Vietnam, popular fruits used for offering at the family altar are the custard-apple/sugar-apple (mãng cầu), coconut (dừa), papaya (đu đủ), and mango (xoài), since they sound like "cầu vừa đủ xài" ([we] pray for enough [money] to spend) in the southern dialect of Vietnamese.
During the subsequent days, people would visit relatives and visit the local Buddist temples to give donations and to get their fortunes told. Fortune-telling based on Truyện Kiều is also popular. With their new money, children are free to spend it on toys or on gambling, which can be found in the streets. Prosperous families can pay for dragon dancers to perform at their house. There are also public performances for everyone to watch.
The traditional greeting is "Chúc mừng năm mới" (Happy New Year). "Cung hỉ phát tài" (from Cantonese) is sometimes also used.
An important part of Tết is the food eaten during the celebration. Some food are eaten year-round, while others are only eaten during Tết. These food include:
- bánh chưng and bánh tét: essentially tightly packed sticky rice with meat or bean fillings wrapped in banana leaves, bánh chưng (square-shaped) and bánh tét (cylindrical-shaped) are symbolically connected with Tết. Preparation is time-consuming, and can take days to cook. The story of their origins and their connection with Tết is often recounted to children while cooking them overnight.
- hột dưa: roasted watermelon seeds, also eaten during Tết
- kiệu: pickled vegetables
- mứt: these sweetened dried fruits are rarely eaten at any time besides Tết.
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