Our Lunar New Year Traditions – Vietnamese Tết
Honoring my heritage, family, remembering our ancestors and just being kind.
I’m sure you all have heard of the red envelopes, well they do come in other colours (like the gold ones below) but did you know they’re only given to certain people? Read on to find out who gets these envelopes and what my family traditions are for the Lunar New Year.
As I write this article it is February 19, 2015 and for many it’s the day they celebrate the Lunar New Year. So before I begin I want to say Gung Hay Fat Choy (Happy Lunar New Year) to everyone. However, while my family and I enjoy the various parades and celebrations put on my the Chinese communities in our area, we will technically be celebrating the Lunar New Year tomorrow (February 20, 2015) as I celebrate on the Vietnamese Tết. So in celebration of that Chuc Mung Nam Moi 🙂
If you don’t know what Vietnamese Tết is here’s a short explanation from Wikipedia (they do get some things right 🙂 ):
Tết ([tet˧˥] or [tɜːt˧˥]), or Vietnamese New Year, is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture. The word is a shortened form of Tết Nguyên Đán (Nôm: 節元旦), which is Sino-Vietnamese for “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day”. Tết celebrates the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese variation of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, which usually has the date falling between the months of January or February.
Tết is generally celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year, except when the one-hour time difference between Vietnam and China results in new moon occurring on different days. Many Vietnamese prepare for Tết by cooking special holiday foods and cleaning the house. There are a lot of customs practiced during Tết, such as visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year (xông nhà), ancestral worshipping, wishing New Year’s greetings, giving lucky money to children and elderly people, and opening a shop.
While I was born in Vietnam I was raised in Vancouver, BC Canada as my dad brought my mom and I from Vietnam when I was only two year’s old.
Growing up I remember every Vietnamese Tet/Chinese New Year as I always got to celebrate it with my mom and her friends who were her adopted family. There was always lots of people, lots of kids, lots of noise and better yet lots of food. My mom always had a Buddha altar set up, just like many you may have seen in Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants. She would light incense and leave a tray of food (usually fruit) out for a few days as a symbol of thanks and as a token to our ancestors.
Naturally as I child I was always excited to get my little red envelope (lucky money) that would have varying denominations of money. Lucky money is given to children and young adults who are unmarried. I remember eating all my favourite Vietnamese food and some traditional Chinese ones too like moon cakes which weren’t my favourite but my brother always loved them. We would visit other Vietnamese families during the week and on the weekend and all in all it was just fun times, getting together, remembering those who weren’t with us, enjoying those who were with us and eating a lot of food!
Here are some of the traditions I’ve carried on with my daughter and my husband too:
- Putting some food out to Buddha and for our ancestors
- I have my collection of Buddhas, not quite an altar but it’s what I use
- Spending time together with family
- Making lots of Vietnamese and other Asian food. Here’s just a few I’ve made this week mostly soup because I love the different soups 🙂
You all know the little red envelopes, yes they come with money in them but it’s only given to children and young adults who are not married. So once I was engaged to my now hubby I stopped getting the red envelopes.
My daughter will be getting a red envelope, maybe a gold one. There’s no difference I just love that there’s a variety of different styles and colours now, I’ve seen purple and silver too, I’ve even seen ones with Hello Kitty, they are all so pretty. We always just had little red envelopes 🙂
Where we live there’s also always a great parade complete with dragon in Chinatown for the Chinese New Year, sometimes we go but not always. Usually we spend it with each other and our adopted Vietnamese relatives, the ones that were close friends of my mom 🙂
This is in memory of my beautiful mother picture below whose birthday is also in about a week from the date this post is published.
What are some of your family traditions whether it’s a Lunar New Year or something else?