Last Updated 14/08/2021.
Tet, or Tet Nguyen Dan is the biggest, most important holiday, festival, or celebration in Vietnam. It marks the arrival of spring and is Vietnamese New Year, according to the lunar calendar. As it is based on the Lunisolar calendar, the date of Tet in Vietnam will vary on the Gregorian calendar each year, but Tet itself is several days, not just one. Tet is marked by the first night of the new moon and this can fall on any day of the week. Tet Nguyen Dan means feast of the very first morning and we were lucky enough to be living in Vietnam for the full duration of the Tet festivities, as well as western Christmas and New Year. Tet was a very beautiful time of year in Vietnam celebrated with flowers, family, traditions, cleaning, and feasting. Our Vietnamese friends shared some of their traditions with us over the Tet holiday.
Tet in Vietnam
We’ve found all the information we can on Tet in Vietnam, including dates, personal experiences, what to expect, and information on whether or not Tet is a good time to visit Vietnam. All of our photos are original, taken by us in Vietnam during Tet.
Tet has several days and is a period of time rather than one day. There is a first day of Tet, second day of Tet, etc. Different traditions, specifically visiting family and respected members of society, are associated with each day. There is also the before, during, and after Tet periods. You will see much cleaning before Tet but during Tet sweeping is thought to sweep out the good luck. I wish we’d known all this in advance because we certainly didn’t do too well with Tet etiquette.
- Ông Công, Ông Táo Day (Kitchen God day) This falls on the 23rd day of the old year according to the lunar calendar. Our landlords visited with offerings and incense for our kitchen shrine.
- Wrapping Chung cake “Banh Chung”. This cake is symbolic of Tet.
- Family reunion and Tất niên, a new year’s dinner for family. Giao thừa – New Year’s Eve. With prayers to God and Ancestors. Xông đất involves the first visits to a family after the new year. Rather like “first footing” in the west.
- First day of the new year. Visit paternal relatives on the first day.
- Second day of the new year. Visit maternal relatives.
- Third day of the new year. Visit teachers.
- Hóa vàng is the burning of offerings for ancestors. Offerings are often paper items symbolic of items used in life, you’ll see paper clothes, shoes, and money for sale in shops for this purpose. This happens on the 4th day of the New Year. You will see offerings to ancestors being burnt often in Vietnam, not just after the Tet period.
- Businesses will be reopened on an auspicious date, sometimes with dragon dancers visiting. We’ve seen this in Vietnam and in Kuala Lumpur, in small shops and huge malls. It’s spectacular to see.
- Tết Nguyên Tiêu is the final day of the Tet new year period and is normally on the 15th day of the new year. It may be marked by a lantern festival. We lived in Hoi An, lantern festivals go on all year. In fact, there are lanterns lit every night in Hoi An (for tourists), festival or not.
Please check all information in this post for yourself, we’ve given source links where possible. We aren’t Vietnamese, we’re just trying very hard to find out and to inform ourselves.
Tet in Vietnam FAQs
When is Tet in Vietnam?
When is Tet in Vietnam 2021?
Is Tet a Good Time to Visit Vietnam?
Is Tet in Vietnam the same day as Chinese New Year?
Kumquats and Tet in Vietnam
Kumquats and kumquat trees are associated with Tet, good luck, and spring in Central Vietnam. In other parts of Vietnam, you might see cherry or peach blossom and trees. During the Tet holiday, we had a festively decorated kumquat tree outside our house, supplied, kindly, by our landlords. We also attended a kumquat festival in Hoi An, just before the Tet holiday.
Lucky Money and Tet
We didn’t know anything about “lucky money” nor that it was associated with the Tet holiday in Vietnam until our landlords arrived, the day after Tet I think, with red envelopes for the children. It was a little embarrassing for us as we didn’t know anything about the practice, and in our culture taking money from people is a little difficult. But we’ll know for next time. I think maybe we were supposed to give their children lucky money too.
Special Foods for Tet
Tet involves feasting and the dishes associated with Tet include Chug Cake, pickled onions, and candied fruits. Our friends brought us some very spicy home-made pickled onions along with candied kumquats.
These Buddha’s Hand fruits, in the photo above, we believe were intended as part of the traditional “five fruits” for offerings at family shrines. Friends told us this, but we haven’t been able to find an authoritative source.
Other special foods consumed at Tet (source) include
- Banh chung
- Gio cha (Vietnamese sausage)
- Thit kho trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)
- Mut (Candied Fruits)
- Melon seeds
- Vegetable soup with pork skin (Canh Bong)
Dates For Tet This Year and Previous Years
|Year||Tet Date||Tet Period (holiday)||Chinese Zodiac. Year of the..|
|2024||February 10th||9th February to 15th February (Fri to Thurs)||Dragon|
|2023||Sunday 22nd January||21st January to 27th January (Sat to Fri)||Rabbit|
|2022||Tuesday, February 1st||31st January to 4th February (Mon to Fri)||Tiger|
|2021||Friday, February 12th||10th February to 16th February (source) (Wed to Tue)||Ox|
|2020||Saturday, January 25th||unavailable||Rat|
|2019||Tuesday February 5th||unavailable||Pig|
|2018||Friday, February 16th||Wednesday 14th to Tuesday 20th February||Dog|
We hope you find our post on Tet in Vietnam interesting and useful. We have a lot of Vietnam content on this website as we lived in Vietnam and have visited often. Other Vietnamese content will be in the related posts and tags below. If you’re looking for guides to Vietnam for travel or vacation, check out our Vietnam Travel Guide and Vietnam with Kids. Our post on Vietnamese food and eating in Hoi An should also be useful.