Tết is here!

Saigon wears her yellow garb during Tết (Tết Nguyên Đán) or the Vietnamese lunar new year. Every nook and cranny is filled with pots and planters full of Chrysanthemums, sunflowers, Hoa Mai ( Ochna integerrima/ yellow apricot flowers) and marigolds. The colour of prosperity and cheer fills the town. Local markets and flower markets are thronged with hundreds of people just before the new year day. Red is another prominent colour during tet. Today is the first day of the lunar new year.

cau doi- decorative red banners with couplets-hanging everywhere

Signature Tet flowers

Vietnamese celebrate Tết with great zest and never fail to be with their family for the one week long new year celebrations. The city looks almost deserted on new year day as most of the families go to their hometowns to be with their family members,cooking special tet dishes, paying obeisance to the Kitchen God and other gods, visiting pagodas and honouring their ancestors.

Hoa Mai plants in full bloom, fruit bearing kumquat or Clementine shrubs are essential for each household and business centre.

Gorgeous Hoa Mai blossoms are the signature tet flowers in the South.

Fabulous Hoa dao or peach blossoms, Northerners’ favourite

fruit bearing kumquat

Fabulous pink peach flowers or Hoa Doa are the signature Tet blossoms in North Vietnam. Tet is incomplete without marumi kumquat/ citrus japonica. The shrubs full of fruits are a symbol of good luck, prosperity and gaiety.

ornately carved coconuts and grape fruits

The five fruit platter is another indispensable offering at the altars during Tet. Fruits in the tray vary from region to region. Many exotic fruits as well as uniquely shaped pomelos, watermelons and coconuts with new year wishes engraved on them are aplenty in the markets.

square shaped watermelon and gold bullion shaped ones

Buddha’s hand fruits and wine gourd shaped pomelos

People bustling around in the markets and streets

Bustling flower markets where hoa mai and hoa dua are for sale

Very similar to Kerala’s new year customs Vietnamese children too would receive Lucky Money (Li xi) from their elders. Tet is the biggest festival in Vietnam; it is a festival of family reunion, exchanging gifts, dining together, remembering one’s ancestors and welcoming the new year.

Envelopes in red and gold to keep Li Xi or lucky money

May this Year of the Dog bring good luck, happiness, health, peace and prosperity to all of us!

2 thoughts on “Tết is here!

  1. What a rich, wonderful post. There’s so much here I didn’t know about, and so many things I’ve never seen, like those carved fruits and veggies. Square watermelon? My goodness! I enjoyed the photo of the man on his scooter with the flower strapped on behind — and I read somewhere that cyber “red envelope” apps are available now, for lucky money to be given that way.

    I didn’t know until I read your post and went exploring that I was born in the Year of the Dog — 1946. I laughed when I read some of the characteristics of a person so born. They were more accurate than I would have expected!


    1. Glad you enjoyed the post. Mine is the Year of the Goat. The Li xi money app is news to me!
      Some of the customs that the Vietnamese follow have similarities to that of our new year, Vishu. In Kerala we too give lot of importance to yellow flowers and yellow fruits during Vishu. ‘Golden Showers’ or laburnum are essential on new year day. Similar to the five fruit platter concept, we keep mangoes, coconut, yellow melons, jackfruit etc on a flat brass vessel. Lucky money is a part of our celebrations too. Here’s an old blog of mine on our new year celebrations.


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