What Is Tet Nguyen Dan?

Tet Nguyen Dan or Tet Am Lich or just Tet is the biggest event of the year in Vietnam. It’s of the same importance as American’s Christmas, New Year, Easter, and Fourth of July combined. It marks the beginning of the lunar New Year and Spring simultaneously. The holiday usually falls in late January or early February.

Tet is a time when everyone wants to be at his own home, which should be sparkling clean and full of flowers. New clothing is desired for everyone and presents are given.

Offroad Vietnam Motorbike Adventures - Tet Nguyen Dan, Tet Ta, Tet Am Lich, the biggest celebration in a year.

Busy & Crazy Time

For months before the new year, businessmen are getting ready for the big selling season. It is very difficult for foreigners to get tailoring work done in Vietnam right before Tet, as the tailors are very busy working for the local population. The items which are the greatest in demand are clothing, food, candles, and flowers. Practically every family forgets thrift and buys a large quantity of food for the Tet holidays, not only to eat but to place on the altar for the ancestors. Downtown streets are a riot of colour with flowers and decorations at each store, including temporary ones, set up on the sidewalk.

All Vietnamese want to pay off their debts, as it is bad luck to owe money during Tet. Employers give their employees bonuses at this time of year and it is also a time that petty thefts increase. The items stolen are sold in order to have enough money for the holidays.

In addition, Tet is a time for correcting all faults, forgetting past mistakes, pardoning others for their offenses, and no longer having enemies. One should behave in a friendly manner to all and should not have any grudges, envy, or malice at this time. Even the Viet-Cong calls an annual truce during Tet.

Closing Time

All of the busy activities of preparing for Tet come to an abrupt end at noon preceding the beginning of the holiday. Merchants reduce their prices, sell everything they can, and shut their doors. Servants are let off work and everyone heads for home. If a person can possibly get home, no matter how far, he goes. The sidewalks are practically “rolled-up” and hardly any business is transacted during the holidays.

Home Activities

On the afternoon before Tet of “Tat Nien” (New Year ceremony), a special ceremony takes place at which a sacrifice is offered to the deceased relatives and they are invited to come back for a few days and share the festivities with the living members of the family.

New Year’s Eve

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, a ceremony called “Giao Thua” is held in which a sacrifice for the spirits and the ancestors is made on a lovely candle-lit altar in the open air near the home. Fire-crackers which heralded in the new year may still be heard. After this, the family may break off some new buds from the special new plants and trees recently purchased for Tet and go to the Pagoda. There, they place incense before the altar and pray for the prosperity of the new year. When they leave the pagoda, another new bud is picked from a plant or tree and placed on the top of a column at their home on returning. This symbolizes good luck.

Offroad Vietnam Motorbike Adventures - Tet Nguyen Dan, Tet Ta, Tet Am Lich, riding during the festival.


The next morning, the family arises early and dress in their new clothes. Dishes of special foods are prepared to be placed on the family altar for the ancestors who are back in the home during Tet. This will be repeated twice daily until Tet is over.

Everyone offers each other New Year wishes, and the children are given lucky red envelopes containing money. Tradition attaches great importance to the first visitor from outside the home on the New Year. He is believed to influence the happiness or well-being of the family during the rest of the year. If a rich man visits first, the family’s fortune will increase. A man with a good name such as Phuoc which means “happiness” is preferable to one named Cho, “dog.” Some families do not trust anything to luck. They invite their first guests and discourage those they consider unlucky not to come early. Generally, the visitors receive some form of refreshment at each home they visit.

Saying goodbye to ancestors

On the fourth day of Tet, the Vietnamese believe that their ancestors return to their heavenly abode. The stores begin to reopen and life regains its normalcy. People visit graves on this day acting as an escort for their departing ancestors.

End of Tet Nguyen Dan

On the seventh day of Tet, the “Cay Neu” is removed from in front of the home. It is a high bamboo pole that is set up on the last day of the old lunar year. Various items are placed on the top, including red paper with an inscription written on it; a small basket containing betel and areca nuts; wind chimes; and a small square of woven bamboo representing a barrier to stop the evil spirits. A few colourful cock feathers may also decorate the pole. The offerings in the basket are intended for the good spirits.

The Vietnamese believe that the good spirits of the household must report to heaven during Tet, so they take many precautionary measures to scare off the bad spirits who know the good ones are away. They do not rely completely on the Cay Neu because legend tells them that it cannot stop a certain bad spirit. It is necessary for the lime powder to be scattered around the house and to draw, with lime also, a bow, and an arrow in front of the threshold.

Things Not To Do During Tet Nguyen Dan

Some things are considered to be very bad luck if done at Tet. A few of them to do at Tet are as follows. Never clean the house during Tet. No insult to others or misbehave. Do not use profanity. Never look fretful or show any anger or grief. Avoid breaking any dishes or housewares. Make sure that you do not go in the wrong direction according to the lunar calendar.

There are also many other negative commandments and superstitions about Tet.

If you want to find out more about a Vietnam motorbike tour our company provides during Tet, please watch the below video or visit our YouTube channel.


Other Popular (Typical) Festivals, Holidays & Recreation In Vietnam

Hai Ba Trung Day
Thanh Minh, Holiday Of The Dead
Doan Ngu (Opening Ceremony Of Summer)
The Whale Festival
Trung Nguyen (Wandering Souls’ Day)
Trung Thu, Mid-Autumn Festival
Recreation Activities

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