Lunar New Year (a.k.a. Chinese New Year) has always been one of my favorite ways to embrace my family’s traditions and spread luck for the rest of the year. Although I am not Chinese, Vietnamese people who also observe the holiday call it Tết (pronounced “thet”) instead. For those of you who don’t know what the holiday entails, Lunar New Year begins on the first new Moon following the first of January. Although the date of the traditional holiday changes every year, the way we celebrate it does not. If you were wondering what types of traditions are practiced and how many ways you can celebrate Tết, the answer is… plenty.
Growing up, I remember my grandmother preparing the house for the new year in countless ways. Since it is believed that the color red brings good fortune and joy, she would always buy red flowers and place them all around her house. I also remember helping her clean and declutter her whole house a whole week before Tết just to get ready for the annual family celebration. Every. Single. Year. After all, it is considered taboo/unlucky to sweep on the day of Lunar New Year because it symbolizes sweeping the good luck away.
The array of food during Tết is always excessively grand, since celebrating Tết is to ăn Tết (pronounced “ahng thet”) which literally translates to “eat Tết”. Potlucks are a popular choice during this time of year since most people gather to celebrate over food. Vietnamese New Year is typically rejoiced for three days. The first day is dedicated to immediate family, the second for visiting friends and the third is for observing the temples.
Similar to how people send friends and family their best wishes on New Years, a similar tradition is performed during Lunar New Year. Passing out red decorated envelopes filled with money is a common ritual. Children receiving envelopes from their elders are expected to express what they hope for them in the upcoming year. For example, my parents would always make me tell them what I wish for our family before receiving my envelope. One of the best parts about celebrating Tết is spreading the positivity and giving the gift of kindness and appreciation for your family and close friends. Now that I am older, I realize how special it is to let people around you know how much you appreciate them by wishing them good health, luck and prosperity.
Coming together with all of my family to ring in the new year has become a very special part of embodying an important part of my life. After 19 years of watching dragon dances, receiving red envelopes and helping my grandma clean I’ve learned to cherish my culture deep to the core. To this day, I am still learning more about my family roots and as a first-generation, my dream is to carry on my legacy as a proud Vietnamese American. You don’t have to be Vietnamese to celebrate Tết. Opening your mind to the values of foreign countries can help expand your knowledge in culture.