Tet is the most important festival of the Vietnamese calendar. It marks the beginning of the lunar new year, which is celebrated in China as well. Festivities occur throughout the country, but this is a family holiday and many of the traditions of observance
occur in the home. The official holiday lasts three days, but celebrations continue for at least the first week of the new year.
Preparations begin about a week before the new year. Homes are cleaned out in the hopes of getting rid of the past year's
bad luck, and some families go so far as to repaint their house's exterior. It also is believed to be lucky to buy new clothes and get a fresh haircut. At midnight on New Year's Eve, Vietnamese families conduct the ritual Le Tru Tich, which involves gongs,
firecrackers and other noisy items to chase out the old year and ring in the new.
On New Year's Day, most families meet to exchange gifts and have a traditional meal, and also perform a ceremony to appease the kitchen god. Homes are decorated with the
hoa mai flower and all thoughts of sadness are supposed to be avoided. Children are encouraged not to fight or cry and anyone in mourning is shunned because it is bad luck to be associated with death on New Year's Day. Many families plant a new year's tree
in front of the house and wrap it with lucky red paper. The tree is removed at the end of the first week of the new year. After the family meal, many Vietnamese attend the local pagoda to worship ancestors.
Food is an important part of the Tet celebrations.
The Vietnamese believe that what a person does on New Year's Day dictates the course of the rest of the year, and eating a lot represents the hope that no one will go hungry in the coming year. In the days leading up to the holiday, the Vietnamese traditionally
give gifts of food to family members and friends. The traditional meal includes foods such as bang, a bamboo and pork soup; bang chung, banh Tet- a sticky rice cake filled with pork and beans; and orange sticky rice. Even the ancestors are given food gifts.
Families leave a five fruit tray at the altar.