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Enter the Year of the Tiger during Tet in Vietnam

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Tet Nguyen Dan, otherwise known as Tet, is the most important holiday in Vietnam.  It is similar to Chinese New Year, which follows the lunar calendar and also commemorates the beginning of spring.  In 2010, Tet will take place on February 14th, which marks the year of the Tiger.

Tet is the most anticipated holiday in Vietnam.  Most people take Tet Eve, Tet and the day after Tet off.  Families usually prepare for Tet weeks in advance.  Money is saved, food is bought and stored, all debt is paid and renovations to the home are done in preparation for the New Year.  It is also time when people in Vietnam travel to be with their families.

The atmosphere leading up to Tet is of excitement and anticipation.  The markets are very busy the week before Tet as people go there to buy the necessary items for the holidays such as food, firecrackers, flowers and clothes.  Shops will stay open until about 4pm on Tet Eve, giving shopkeepers time in the evening to go home and prepare for the coming of Tet on midnight.

The holidays are also a chance for people to pay respects to deceased family members.  Vietnamese believe that they will make a visit during the holidays.  Family altars are decorated with incense, flowers and photographs of the deceased family member.  The family will also offer a tray filled with fruits, coins and flowers to the altar, which symbolizes prosperity in the future.  The third day of Tet is also an opportunity for people to visit their deceased family members at their burials with the tombstones being colorfully decorated with flowers, incense and candles.

Interestingly, birthdays are also celebrated on Tet.  Unlike Western birthday customs where people ‘age’ on the date they were born, traditional Vietnamese customs recognize a person being older on the year of the symbol of the lunar calendar.  For example, a baby that is born on Jan 1st 2010 (which coincides with the Year of the Buffalo), will age one year on February 14th 2010 (Year of the Tiger) and age another year on February 3rd 2011 (Year of the Cat).  Children receive their birthday presents on Tet morning.

Tet is also a time when people feast with their family members and friends.  One type of meal the family may feast on is boiled male virgin chicken and a soup made with vermicelli and bamboo shoots.  Many households also feast on Banh Chung, which is tightly packed sticky rice filled with meat or beans wrapped in banana leaves.  Cu Kieu (pickled small leeks), Hot Dua (roasted watermelon seeds) and Mut (dried candy fruits) are also eaten during Tet.  Thit Kho Nuoc Dua (meat stewed in coconut juice) is another traditional Tet meal.  It is a dish consisting of pork stomach and medium boiled eggs stewed in broth-like sauce made from coconut juice and fish sauce.

You can experience the holidays throughout the country with Exotissimo’s Vietnam in Style tour.  Travel to this charming country with grace and flair as we take you to the most interesting sights and landmarks in Vietnam while you stay in the best hotel rooms.  Our Vietnam Insight tour promises an experience beyond normal sightseeing as we showcase the country beyond the beaten path and introduce you to the country’s locals and their customs.  Feel free to contact us for any questions regarding Vietnam or your Tet trip.

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