Thought you’ve learned enough about the Vietnamese Tet Holiday? The truth is that Vietnam’s culture varies significantly from North to South due to the geographical features and the history of the establishment. How different regions in Vietnam celebrate the Tet holiday also differs greatly. Tet cultures in Vietnam will never cease to amaze you with their vibrant and meaningful customs and traditions.
Note: the purpose of this guide below is a rough reference of how different regions in Vietnam celebrate the Tet holidays, not to generalize the distinctive cultures that each area practices. Please note that Vietnam’s local customs and traditions can vary vastly from one community to another.
Tet in Northern Vietnam | How Different Regions in Vietnam Celebrate the Tet Holiday
Northern Vietnam can be divided into the Northeast and Northwest where we can find some of Vietnam ethnic groups residing in the mountainous areas, and some Chinese influences. Another primary area in Northern Vietnam is the Red River Delta with a more prominent flatland culture.
Tet Decorative Plants
Kumquat or Pomelo plants are familiar to the North of Vietnam
While the peach flower holds the peacefulness and elegance, kumquat bring luck and fruitfulness for people in the new year
In every region of Vietnam, the fruits on the five-fruit tray represent the five elements: wood, water, metal, earth, fire. The tray is usually placed on the family’s altar, and the number of fruits presented is preferably 5 or odd numbers.
The Northern five-fruit tray never misses a bunch of unripe green bananas. It is the most important fruit for its presence as the Buddha’s hand faces up to protect and bring blessings to the house owners. The Northern people do not place heavy on the kinds of fruit, as long as they are fresh and colorful. For example, they often choose a watermelon, a dragon fruit, 3-5 tangerines, a finger citron (Budda’s hand), 3-5 peppers, etc.
A typical five-fruit tray of Northerners highlights How Different Regions in Vietnam Celebrate the Tet Holiday
Banh Chung and Banh Giay are indispensable during the Tet holidays in the North of Vietnam. The square shape of Banh Chung and the round shape of Banh Giay represent the earth and the sky, respectively, as Northern families wish for balance and harmony for the new year. These are sticky rice cakes, which most families traditionally gather to make the night before the first day of Lunar New Year.
Banh Giay is served with Vietnamese cold cuts (cha lua or gio cha). Sometimes, you can fill Banh Giay with mung beans
Tet in Central Vietnam | How Different Regions in Vietnam Celebrate the Tet Holiday
Central Vietnam is divided into the Northern Central region, where influences from the feudal times remain, the Coastal region which relates to the customs and traditions of fishermen’s lifestyles, and the Central Highlands, where the majority of ethnic groups in Vietnam reside.
Tet Decorative Plants
The Central Region’s apricot blossom is smaller than that of the South. Rather than displaying them in pots and then decorating them, residents of the Central area prefer simplicity. They frequently grow flowers directly in front of the house’s entry or place a few little branches on the altar. Paper flowers are indispensable to put on the altar during Tet days in Northern Central Vietnam.
People of the Central Region rarely use bitter or spicy fruits but instead showcase the five-fruit tray with sweet, round, fragrant, and long-lasting ones to be attractive and unique, as well as praying for peace and happiness. Generally, they do not display oranges or tangerines.
People from the Central Region of Vietnam have Banh Tet (Cylindrical Sticky Rice Cakes ). The main difference between Banh Chung and Banh Tet lies in the shape of the cakes: while Banh Chung is typically a square, Banh Tet is a log-like cylindrical shape. The filling of Banh Tet is similar to that of Banh Chung. However, there’s also a sweet version with ripe banana fillings, called Banh Tet Chuoi.
Unlike the savory taste that the normal Banh Tet brings, Banh Tet Chuoi owns a sweeter taste with vivid color
Most of the cooking techniques used in the Tet feast in the Central Region use lots of salt and spices to make the dishes taste better and last longer. You can name some Tet dishes on the Central Region food tray:
- Grilled pork sausages
- Beef grilled with lemongrass and peppercorn
- Roast pork, roast chicken
- Braised beef
- Caramelized lean beef with turnip
- Pork and beef pickled in the fish sauce
Pork pickled in fish sauce is a simple yet tasty dish on Tet days in the Central Region of Vietnam. You can have this dish with steaming hot rice or raw vegetables
The Central Region’s sweets feature a variety of fruit delights. You can enjoy candied ginger, candied tamarind, candied kumquat, candied lotus seed, five-color tiered rice cake, all of which artfully replicate fruits on their stems in natural hues. These heavily sweetened candies are carefully dried to retain their flavor and freshness for up to a month.
Tet in Coastal Regions in Central Vietnam
When staying here, you can take part in many Tet festivals, such as Du Tien festival, Custom of Erecting New Year Tree (Hue), boat racing festival (Quang Ngai province, Qua Son Temple festival (Nghe An), or Kate festival in Ninh Thuan province. You can also marvel at the colorful flowers markets, or pay a visit to Hue Ancient Tombs from the first to the third day of the Lunar New Year.
Tet in Vietnam Central Highlands
Tet in Vietnam Central Highlands is the most special thanks to Vietnam’s ethnic groups here. You can have a taste for a wide range of Highlands cuisines, or take part in many culture-rich festivals during Tet days. Tay Nguyen people officially welcome New Year around March and April, which is the transmission between the wet and dry seasons.
Tet foods you can enjoy in Tay Nguyen:
- Bamboo-tube rice (com lam)
- Straw liquor (ruou can)
- Baked bacon: Another name for the dish is “Poăc buh”. The meat used for this is the buffalo, cow, pig, or deer shank. You can enjoy baked bacon with spicy green chili salt.
- Paddy oats or Gnetum (rau la bep): Another name for the leave is “Biăp n’ce”, used to cook with
- Vietnamese crab soup or stir-fry with garlic.
- Forest tea tree (Da ce bri)
Tay Nguyen Tet festivals you can participate in:
- Nho Lir Bong Festival (K’ho people)
- Yang Pa Festival (Cho Ro people)
- New Rice Festival (E De people)
- Water Piping Festival – Giot Nuoc Festival (Xo Dang-Xo Teng people)
The Water Piping Festival (Xo Dang-Xo Teng people) in Tay Nguyen
Tet in Southern Vietnam | How Different Regions in Vietnam Celebrate the Tet Holiday
Unlike the North, the popular flower for the Tet holiday in the South of Vietnam is apricot blossoms, which symbolize longevity, happiness, and wealth. Southerners often choose the trees with several buds that bloom in time for Tet. They are placed within or outside the home to circulate good luck
Vietnamese people usually put an apricot blossom tree in their houses and avoid sweeping the petals when they fall since it is believed that apricot petals bring good luck
The five-fruit tray in the South is different from that in the North of Vietnam. Southerners avoid putting bananas on the tray, which has the same sound as “chúi” (to bend one’s head forward), meaning the house members will have an unhappy year and they will be unsuccessful. Other kinds of fruits avoided are orange and tangerine since they will bring bad luck to the house owners.
In the South of Vietnam, the five-fruit tray is based on the homonymous phenomenon “Cau sung vua du xai” to set meaning for five fruits:
- Soursop (Mang Cau) – the same sound as “cau” in “cau mong” (to wish)
- Fig (Sung) – the same sound as “sung” in “sung tuc” (well-off, well-to-do)
- Coconut (Dua) – the same sound as “vua” in “vua phai” (moderate)
- Papaya (Du Du) – the same sound as “du” in “day du” (enough)
- Mango (Xoai) – the same sound as “xai” in “tieu xai” (spend, use)
The phrase “Cau sung vua du xai” in Vietnamese means wishing to earn enough to spend and live in good condition
In Southern Vietnam, the typical Tet delicacies are:
- Thit Kho Hot Vit (Chinese Braised Pork with Duck Egg),
- Canh Kho Qua (Pork Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup),
- Banh Trang Cuon (Fresh Spring Roll with Shrimp),
- Cu Kieu Muoi (Pickled Scallion Head).
Southerners usually prepare a Tet food tray with many dishes on New Year’s Eve
Additionally, Banh Tet is also a must-have on the dining table in the South during Tet days.
The Similarities in How Different Regions in Vietnam Celebrate the Tet Holiday
Traditional Vietnamese Tet Foods
Normally, the typical foods on the Tet food tray include a boiled chicken, a bowl of Vietnamese chicken soup (glass noodles cooked with chicken broth), a bowl of pork bamboo shoot soup, jellied meat or Vietnamese sausage, pickled small leeks, sticky rice cakes (Banh Chung, Banh Giay, or Banh Tet). Sticky rice cake is the must-have dish on the Tet food tray.
Take a look at Must-try Dishes on this Lunar New Year.
Tet Holiday’s Traditional Sweet Snacks
On Tet, all Vietnamese households prepare food for their visitors and wish the entire family a prosperous, healthy, and successful year. In Asian customs, pumpkin and red melon seeds, sugared dried fruits, candies, chocolate, and biscuits are served.
Tet sweet snacks are served with beers or soft drinks when guests come to visit the house owners
Tet Holiday’s Activities
- Half of the month before the Tet holiday, people everywhere in Vietnam spend time cleaning their houses, buying decorations such as flowers or ornaments, buying new clothes, and making Banh Chung and Banh Tet.
- Visiting relatives and friends is an indispensable culture on the Tet holiday and people dress in red or bright colors and bring gifts to celebrate Tet with the owners.
- People also give and receive lucky money (li xi), which is placed in a red envelope with the meaning of “Happiness, Luck and Prosperity”. Usually, kids receive lucky money and wish the giver best wishes.
- Vietnamese visit pagodas during the Tet celebration, especially on the first day. On this day, most
- Vietnamese would also make and enjoy vegetarian dishes.
- During Tet days, it’s common for people to visit and take photos of flowers markets or places decorated with lovely flowers.
- Folk games such as playing cards and Bingo become an integral part of the Tet holiday. It makes the Tet atmosphere more cheerful and enjoyable. People usually play cards on Tet days since they believe it’s time to try out their luck.
What People Avoid Doing in Tet Days
- Avoid wearing black or white, go for red or bright-colored clothes
- Avoid negative topics including accidents, deaths, or funerals
- Avoid asking for money or being in debt before and during Tet
- Avoid working on the 5th of the New Year
- Avoid giving fire to another
- Avoid breaking glass, sweeping the house or throwing trash as it means that you’re chasing away good luck
Find out more on Dos and Don’t – How to Enjoy Tet Holiday
Our Final Thoughts on How Different Regions in Vietnam Celebrate the Tet Holiday
Although each part of Vietnam has its own Tet trees, Tet foods, and the Five-fruit tray decoration, Vietnamese people still share some common activities and beliefs when celebrating the Tet Holiday. Which style of celebration do you like? Let us know by commenting below this article.