1. New Year ("Tet") - Vietnam

    In Vietnam, Tet Nguyen Dan ushers in the Lunar New Year. It is the most important date in Vietnam, a time when the spirits of ancestors are invoked, a time when families gather to pray for good fortune in the coming year. The first three days after Tet are official holidays but most shops & businesses are closed for a week. It is not, in fact a good time to visit Vietnam given the complete lack of transport & closure of shops.

    In the week before Tet, many conduct rites in making lavish offerings of food & drink on tables before their houses & businesses to accompany spirits returning to the heavens. In so doing good fortune in the coming year is sought. Debts are paid, shops & houses meticulously cleaned. I was intrigued by the way only whole chickens - cooked to include heads, wings & legs in full & assembled that way on presentation - are used. Also impressive are the ceremonies undertaken to assist the spirits who no longer have living relatives on earth to pray for them.

    A New Year's Tree, often a kumquat, is installed inside the entrance to each home to ward off evil spirits. Pink peach blossum shoots grace the homes of the north whilst yellow chrisanthenums grace those of the south. The Vietnames flag flutters everywhere.

    On New Year's Eve the spirits return to earth & at the stroke of midnight all the 'bad' of the year just passed is put behind. The conduct of New Year's Day is particularly important as it is belived it affects the course of the year ahead. Rudeness, swearing & anger, even sewing & sweeping are held to attract evil. It is absolutely CRUCIAL that the first visitor to a house be 'appropriate' - usually a well-to-do male of the appropriate horoscope. Visitors must be particularly careful not to transgress in this regard, rigourously avoiding visiting Vietnamese unless explicitly invited.

    All in all it is a relatively & comparatively quiet celebration. I was taken by the lack of inebriated, boisterous activity during the fireworks I witnessed; at how participants applauded the spectacle without lunging at each other in a display of affection & well-wishing in total mayhem.

    Herewith some limited shots to help celebrate Tet:

    Flowers fill the streets of Hoi An & the entrance to shops:




    Tet represents a moment of potential good fortune & as such is a much sought time to have one's wedding photos taken; taken in advance of the actual wedding as is the custom here:


    Hoi An was ready for the event, its streets a blaze of colour at night:




    Da Nang was the place to be for the fireworks:










  2. Need to reconfirm the problems to be faced by travelers visiting Vietnam during Tet:
    - Since 20th January all modes of transport - airplanes, trains, rental cars - have been booked solid & are so booked right through until 2nd February.
    - At the same time virtually every shop & certainly every market is closed, certainly all those that one would normally frequent for 'supplies'.
    - I have not seen a bank that will be open any time between 22nd & 29th January. Most ATM's are out of order with no chance of being repaired before the banks reopen.
    - Many of those you may wish to see as a matter of urgency - doctors, accountants, lawyers etc as well as any gov't official - have often left their place of work returning 'home' often thousands of kilometers away.
    - Any problems with matters of communication are completely irresolvable until end January.
    And so it goes.

    Best you know your lunar calendar if planning to travel to Vietnam.
  3. Thanks, Rod. Some great photos and useful information, as usual.
  4. Dave - your kind comments prompted me to re-read the post. In turn I felt it only fair to record that Tet - especially the lead-up to Tet or say some for some 7 days before it - is a stimulating time to be in Vietnam both culturally & visually. The various ceremonies invoking spirits give a wonderful insight into current day beliefs & practices of so many Vietnamese, whilst the flower displays are nothing short of sensational. Just be aware of what happens therafter!
  5. A quick note to let those contemplating visiting Vietnam during Tet that it will fall on 9th-12th February 2013 inclusive.
    Re-visiting the original post makes one realise just how an important event this is, how colourful & spectacular, how culturally rewarding & enriching despite the problems that can await the ill-prepared.
    Well worth the visit.
  6. Wonderful thread. Thanks Rod.
    I have my parents are still at the North, and my small family in the South try to be at HOME to visit parents and celebrate Tet holiday every year.
    Now for Tet of this Snake year, I am planning to drive from Hochiminh City up to the North. This is my third driving trip for Tet holiday.
    Are you still in Danang so we can hookup sometimes Rod?
  7. VietHorse - I am currently in Bora Bora, Tahiti, French Polynesia; what a shame we cant, on this occassion, hookup.

    Tet is a wonderful time in Vietnam - both culturally & certainly in terms of colour. This report would be enhanced enormously if you could take a few shots of the flower markets around HCMC & Hanoi then add them to the thread - it really is SPECTACULAR & something from which readers would derive great pleasure to see.

    To your camera, VietHorse!
  8. Oops... So you now no longer stay in Vietnam? Or just temporary?
    I will get the camera along with my Tet trip this year and brave to share with you all our amazing festival.
  9. VietHorse - GREAT news; Tet truly warrants the photos, its brilliant!

    No problems staying in wonderful VN but have returned home so my wife can be with her mother (now 93) & be here for the brith of grandchildren - another due this week-end!
  10. There has in recent months been wide debate in Vietnamese society concerning a certain fundamental religious custom - the burning of votive offerings.

    On the one hand there are those who hold that their burning, like many other practices such as making food offerings and releasing carps, are spiritual customs & part of Vietnam's rich cultural heritage that must be preserved. Votive offerings are burnt during such important occasions as TET, for the Vietnamese tradition which honors the Kitchen God & even monthly by many people on the first day and 15th day of each lunar month for their ancestors to send items to the dead for use in the afterlife & to commemorate their ancestors and express their gratitude.

    On the other hand there are those who believe it is a waste of money, enviromental pollution that raises the risk of fires & explosions that would be better spent on practical activities, such as taking better care of parents and elders, helping the lonely and the poor. They argue the custom has changed with many people burning votive paper as a way of demonstrating their wealth through the burning of giant paper houses, cars, motorbikes, TV sets, and even paper servants and concubines costing millions of dong each & that statistics from the Cultural Ministry show that 40,000 tonnes of votive objects are burned each year with more than VND400 billion (US$20 million) a year being spent in Hanoi alone on these items just to burn them.

    The debate has even reached the temples where monks, arguing that Buddha does not teach people to burn votive offerings, have asked them to stop the practice to avoid waste and fire danger.

    Well, as fate would have it, during TET this year, on Chinese New Year yesterday, eight houses and six motorbikes caught fire in HCM in one fire alone! Reportedly a woman was burning votive offerings around mid-day when wind blew some of them onto a pile of styrofoam in front of a factory, igniting the blaze. Four of the houses and the six motorbikes were burned to ash whilst the other four houses suffered less damage. Apparently the damage was done in some 15 minutes with occupants having time only to run to safety.
  11. Tet can be a time of wonderment......or a time of headaches.

    Best to be informed in advance to get the very best out of this exceptional celebration, this period so central to Vietnamese culture & the importance of family to all Vietnamese.

    Tet this year will fall from 30/01/2014 - 02/02/2014.

    Familiarise yourself with what's involved & what's expected via the full report herewith & enjoy an exceptional moment should you be in Vietnam for Tet.

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