New Year Traditions Around the World – Vietnam

The main holiday for Vietnam is New Year, called Tết Nguyên Đán {Day Wen Don}, and is celebrated in January or February depending on the Lunar Calendar. This year the celebration will take place on Thursday, February 19.

Tết Nguyên Đán

Tết Nguyên Đán emphasizes respect for elders and good luck in the upcoming year. To symbolize new beginnings, ancestral alters are decorated with apricot and peach blossoms, and a plate of various fruits is also set out to represent gratitude for the earth, respect for the dead and aspirations for a prosperous life.

Tất Niên offering

Incense is burned in memory of friends and family members who have passed, each stick of incense representing a different ancestor. Singing bowls are played during prayers by rubbing a wooden mallet around the rim of the bowls to produce a unique sound.

Another element to the Vietnamese New Year celebration is inscribing red scrolls with poetry. We have an example on display here as part of our Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibition that reads “Paying respect to our ancestors for our family” and “Returning the favor to our parents for raising us.” Stop by to see them up close for yourself!

Vietnamese Scrolls

A statue of Buddha is also displayed on the alter since the majority of Vietnamese are Buddhist. The Buddha Lady shows compassion by listening to the cries of the people and helping them enter into heaven, and the Laughing Buddha has a large belly and big smile which symbolizes happiness and plenitude. Tradition says that you will receive good luck after rubbing his belly.

What are some of the New Year traditions in your family? Leave them below in the comments or post them on our Facebook page here.

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