Tet Holiday - Vietnam traditional lunar new year

The Lunar New Year, or commonly known as Tet, is the biggest and the most important holiday in our considerable festival lineup. As you may know, Vietnamese culture is a culture of many religions and beliefs, therefore, the duration of Tet is full of traditions, special rituals and ceremonies. Interestingly, due to the differences in geography, climate and culture, Northern and Southern people in Vietnam engross in different activities to celebrate such a special occasion of the year. If you are having an internship in Vietnam this time of the year, don't hesitate to open your eyes and souls to the bustling vibes. Join us today to find out how Northern and Southern people celebrate Tet!

1. Peach blossom and yellow apricot flower

Hoa Dao - Peach blossom foretells the coming of Tet - the Lunar New Year

Hoa dao (peach blossom) and hoa mai (apricot blossom) are inherently linked to the spirit of Tet. They foretells the coming of a get-together time of the year. A few weeks before Tet, you will catch sight of families rushing back and forth to bring home the most beautiful flowers to wish for a happier new year. In the North, peach blossoms (hoa dao), together with kumquat trees, are more common while in the south, you can’t look anywhere without catching sight of a bushel of yellow apricot flower. This marked difference is largely due to the variance of the temperature and the characteristics of the plants. The North of Vietnam generally enjoys chilly weather in the first few months of the year, which is perfect suited for the the growth of peach trees. Meanwhile, yellow apricot flower can only survive and bloom in tropical lands with lots of sunshine in the South. 

Hoa Mai - Yellow Apricot Flower is more common in the Southern of Vietnam during Lunar New Year

2. Chung cake vs Tet cake 

Tet is not just a get-together occasion of the year, it is time to pay tribute and remembrance to ancestors and forefathers. One of the ways to do so is via food specialties. 

Tet cake (or banh tet) is more common in the Southern of Vietnam

In the north, you will see Chung cake in most family meals while it is Tet cake that is more of a common scene in the South. Both cakes are considered a new year treat, which implies gratitude of later generations to their forefather.
The main differences lie in the shape of two cakes with a slight change in the ingredients. Chung Cake is square-shaped with sticky rice, green bean, pork, dong or banana leaves, and other additional spices as salt and pepper. Tet cake is cylindrical with with sticky rice. The stuffing includes pork fat and beans seasoned with black pepper and shallots. Both are wrapped in banana leaves, thus, they bring a gentle surprise as the sticky rice takes on a pale green color and a slightly leafy taste as one opens it. 

Chung Cake is square-shaped

3. Kitchen Gods worshipping ritual in the Southern and Northern Vietnam

Vietnamese people believe Kitchen Gods are the deities who take care of the well-being of the household. On the 23rd day of the 12th Lunar month, the Kitchen is believed to ride a carp to the heaven so that he can report on the families’ behaviors and achievements throughout the year. Residents in the North will prepare a grand farewell to the Kitchen God for their journey to heaven by preparing a carp and put it on the altar together will other preparations. However, Southern people believe carp is a sacred fish which is closely linked to royalty, therefore, should not be put on the altar.

4. The Plate of Five Fruits in Vietnamese New Year (Mam Ngu Qua)

Mam Ngu Qua, or five-fruit tray, is often placed on the ancestral altar. It represents the gratitude of the people to Heaven and Earth and their ancestors and symbolizes their hope for a life of plenty and prosperity. The five fruits demonstrate the concept that the world is made of five basic elements, including metal, wood, water, fire and earth.
In the South, people do not have bananas on their plate of five fruits since its pronunciation in Southern language is “chui”, which sounds similar to downward and bad lucks.

5. How people spend their time during Tet

Northern people generally spend more time sharing meals and meeting up with family members and pay visits to each other’s family. Southern people think of Tet as an occasion to relax, thus, they may spend their savings on travelling and discovering new places with friends and family.

Despite these differences, Tet means back to origins, wishing for the best, and joining in colorful parties.  Having an internship in Vietnam this time of the year would be a perfect occasion to learn about Vietnam mythologies, values and beliefs! 

Be open-minded and then you will truly be immersed in the Viet lifestyle!

Image Source: Internet