February 14th, 2010 marks the start of the Year of the Tiger on the Lunar Calendar. Known as Tết in Vietnam, it means the first morning of the first day of the new year. This is the most important time of the year for families in Vietnam. It’s a time for celebration, making amends, paying off debts and starting fresh. Families in the cities make a pilgrimage to visit their families in their home land and to pay respects to their ancestors.
What is the meaning of Tết?
For a nation of farmers, Tết always represented a festival marking the communion of man with nature. It’s the time of rest after 12 months of labor but also a time of renewal. For three days, people take extra care not to show anger and not to be rude with anyone. After the festivities, everyone gets back to their daily routines.
As a general rules, extended families gather to spend Tết together. Children promise to be well-behaved and most often they receive gifts wrapped in red paper. Joss-sticks are lit on the family altar and the family graves are visited. Tết is the celebration of both the beginning of a New Year and spring.
A special celebration is held at the mid-night hour on New Year’s Eve, involving firecrackers and gongs in order to make loud noises to usher out the old (year) and welcome the new (year).
New clothes are purchased for the first day of Tết and old debts should be paid before the New Year. Houses are decorated with Hoa Mai, a yellow flower which represents spring.
The first person who visits a house on the morning of Tết is very important; the person should be rich, happy and prestigious in order to ensure a rich and happy New Year for the family. Whatever you do, don’t visit people who are in mourning since that is associated with death.
Year of the Tiger: Big Changes Ahead.