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Public holidays

The most important and widely celebrated public holiday of the year is Tet, the Lunar New Year, which coincides with the cycle of the moon. This public holiday usually takes place in late January or early February and lasts officially for three days, although many businesses are closed the entire week. Other important public holidays include the Liberation of Saigon (April 30), International Worker’s Day (May 1), Ho Chi Minh’s birthday (May 19), and Vietnamese National Day (September 2).

TET or The Vietnamese Lunar New Year

There is no more colorful time to be in Vietnam than during the days leading up to Tet Nguyen Dan, the most important festival of the year for Vietnam’s Kinh ethnic majority.

Since the first day of lunar year is thought to set tone for the next 12 month, everyone strives to plan the perfect Tet.

In Hanoi, the narrow lanes of the Old Quarter buzz with activity. Everyone is in a rush to get a haircut, buy new clothes, spruce up their homes, visit friends, settle outstanding debts, and stock up on traditional Tet delicacies. Businesses hang festive red banners which read “Chuc mung nam moi” (Happy New Year) and city streets are festooned with colored light. Stalls spring up all over town to sell nothing but cone -shaped kumquat bushes. Others sell flowering peach trees, symbols of life and good fortune which people bring in to their homes to celebrate the coming of spring. As vendors pour into the city with peach trees strapped to their bicycles, the streets look like moving pink forests

In the south, people bring yellow mai (apricot) branches into their homes and place a coconut, a papaya, a mango and a custard apple on the family altar. Spoken in the southern dialect, the names of these fruit form a prayer for success and fulfillment.

Three crucial meetings are said to take place on Tet. The first meeting is between three family deities: Tien su, the deity responsible for introducing the family to its traditional career; Tho Cong, who oversees the land where the family lives; and Tao Quan, the Kitchen God, who cares for the family’s food. The second meeting takes place between the dead and the living. People place offerings of food and drinks on their ancestral altars, light incense, and invite their ancestors to join the family’s Tet celebrations. The third meeting involves the immediate family. On New Year’s Eve, family members gather for a dinner of traditional food like banh chung (a square cake made of sticky rice stuffed with beans and pork), mang (a soup of boiled bamboo shoots and fried pork) and Xoi Gac (orange sticky rice). This is followed by a visit to the local pagoda and perhaps an outing to see the town’s fireworks.


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