|Festivals & Events
TET NGUYEN DAN
(The Lunar New Year)
Tet has become so familiar, so sacred to the Vietnamese that when Spring
arrives, the Vietnamese, wherever they may be, are all thrilled and
excited with the advent of Tet, and they feel an immense nostalgia,
wishing to come back to their homeland for a family reunion and a taste of
the particular flavours of the Vietnamese festivities.
Tet starts on the first day of the first lunar month and is the first
season of the new year (according to the lunar calendar), and therefore it
is also known as the Tet Nguyen Dan, literally meaning Fete of the First
Day, or the Tet Tam Nguyen, literally meaning Fete of the Three Firsts.
The Vietnamese, wherever they may be, are all thrilled and excited with
the advent of Tet, and they feel an immense nostalgia, wishing to come
back to their homeland for a family reunion and a taste of the particular
flavours of the Vietnamese festivities. Those who have settled down abroad
all turn their thoughts to their home country and try to celebrate the
festivities in the same traditional way as their family members and
relatives to relieve their nostalgia, never forgetting the fine custom
handed down from generation to generation.
The Tet of the New Year is, above all, a fete of the family. This is an
opportunity for the household genies to meet, those who have helped during
the year, namely the Craft Creator, the Land Genie and the Kitchen God. As
the legend goes, each year on December 23 of the lunar calendar, the
Kitchen God takes a ride on a carp to the Heavenly Palace to make a report
on the affairs of the household on earth and then returns on December 30
to welcome the New Spring.
Tet is also an opportunity to welcome deceased ancestors back for a family
reunion with their descendants. Finally, Tet is a good opportunity for
family members to meet. This custom has become sacred and secular and,
therefore, no matter where they are or whatever the circumstances, family
members find ways to come back to meet their loved ones
TET THUONG NGUYEN (Nguyen Tieu)
According to Buddhist sutras, the first and the fifteenth days (Tet Nguyen
Tieu) of every lunar month are Buddha's Days, when acts of worship are
performed in Buddhist shrines and before family altars. Joss-sticks are
lit and trays of fruit and other offerings are laid out. Celebrations
related to the lunar New Year are over, but the festive Tet atmosphere
still remains. The weather is mild despite an occasional drizzle, pagodas
and temples are crowded with old people telling their beads, young people
praying for happiness in love and luck in business, parents wishing for
health and prosperity to their children... Fruit and delicacies offered to
Buddha are taken back home to be distributed to all members of the family
as "gifts" from the deities.
In traditional astrology the fate of each person is influenced by one
particular star. On the 15th day, an act of worship is performed to the
star before a three-level altar. On the top level, offerings of incense
and food are made to Heaven and Buddha; on the middle level they are made
to the tutelary star; on the lowest level are various foods, including
rice gruel, which are offered to the "wandering souls".
The origins of the sacred character of this particular date are unclear.
One version has it that on the occasion of the first full moon of the
year, the emperor of China used to offer a lavish banquet to the most
prominent scholars of the country, who would compose poetry to the glory
of the monarch, as well as to the beauty of nature.
Indeed in the eyes of men of letters, the moon is at the height of its
beauty on that night. Unable to reproduce such moonlight as described by
the writer through the lens of camera, we would like to present our
readers a few pictures of pilgrims at the Quan Su pagoda in Hanoi on the
fifteenth day of the first moon of the year. Whatever its origins, one
thing is certain: on this day the heart of everybody is turned to a vision
of peace and happiness.
TET KHAI HA
Khai Ha is organized on the seventh day of the first lunar month on which
the owner offer their ancestors paper money and clothes and says farewell
to them. The neu bamboo pole is lowered and a new yearis welcomed.
According to Vietnamese thinking, if the weather is warm and the sun
is shining on Khai Ha, man will be healthy and fortunate all the year
TET DOAN NGO
Held on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, Tet Doan Ngo is also
called Parasite-Killing Festival. This is a mid-year festival to enhance
the prevention of evils and illnesses, and the memory of the ancestors.
TET TRUNG NGUYEN
Also called "All Souls Day", is on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. On
this day, people always come to the pagodas to make lavish offerings to
the wandering souls.
TET TRUNG CUU
Or the Double Nine Fete (on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month) comes from
China. On this occasion, the Confucian scholars used to take a stroll up
the mountains, sipping chrysanthemum liquor. Today, very few localities
celebrate this festival.
TET TRUNG THAP
Or the Double Ten Festivies (on the 10th day of the 10th lunar month) is
in fact the harvest festival. As for physicians and traditional
herbalists, it is the day when the medicinal herbs can absorb both the
positive and the negative of the universe.
TET TAO QUAN
The Vietnamese have a custom of seeing off Ong Conga (the Land Genie) and
Ong Tao (the Kitchen God) on the 23rd day of lunar December. Both go to
Heaven to brief Ngoc Hoang (the Jade Emperor) on the life of the owner of
the house where they stay, and pray for luck, prosperity and happiness. On
New Year's Eve, both Gods will come back to earth and continue their
routine duty of looking after the kitchen of the house.
The custom of worshipping Ong Conga and Ong Tao originated from a myth
that dates from ancient time. There was a couple, so poor that they had to
go far away to earn their living. They lost each other. After a long time
of unsuccessfully looking for her husband, the wife married another man.
One day, her old husband unintentionally called at her house to beg
for food. The old couple recognized each other. Feeling sad and
embarrassed at the situation and unfaithful to the old husband, the wife
jumped into the fire and burned to death. The old husband, sorry for the
wife, also jumped into the fire, as did the new husband. Hearing about
their faithful love, the jade Emperor permitted the three of them to live
together as the Kitchen God to enjoy the blessings.
On the Ong Cong and Ong Tao festival day, people usually prepare steamed
sticky rice with sugar porridge, truncated cone-shaped cookies made of
sticky rice, incense joss sticks and flowers for a worshipping ceremony.
They also prepare a basin of water in which they put one big live carp or
three small ones. After the ceremony, the carp are released into the pond
or the river. This custom has two meanings. First, as popular thinking
goes, the carp can swim well and it will pass Vu Moon (Heaven's gate) to
become a dragon. Thus, Ong Cong and Ong Tao ride a carp, i.e. a dragon, to
heaven. Second, the custom of releasing the carps refers to a custom of
releasing animals, such as birds into the air and the beasts into the
forest , which is considered a kindhearted deed to pray for good luck.
The custom of worshipping Ong Cong and Ong Tao as the Land Genie and
Kitchen God has a humanist value, reflecting the family happiness. The
fire in the kitchen manifests not only the cozy family union, but also the
bumper harvest and agricultural development.