Tag Archives: vietnamese new year

Vietnamese Tradition: Lunar New Year Outfits


Informant G is a 20 year old Cinema and Media Studies major from The Inland Empire in Southern California. Her family is primarily Vietnamese and Cambodian, and G lived in Vietnam for periods of time as a child. She is a junior at USC.


Please excuse any grammar issues, these are direct text message quotes. G sent me a photo of herself and her older sister wearing áo dài. She said the following:

“During Lunar New Year (Tết in Vietnamese) most people wear áo dài which is the traditional Vietnamese dress/costume/outfit. Although, it’s not exclusively worn during Lunar New Years, most people buy new áo dàis or wear their best one as a way to start the new year off well.”

When I asked about further significance in the type of áo dài, she replied

“they more symbolize the significance of an event, like people can wear it in their casual life but the fancier an áo dài the more formal/significant an event is”

“the color is also very important (not as much any more) but during Tet a lot of people wear red áo dài because it represents luck and prosperity”


There are a number of significant details in this anecdotal description. For one thing, G clearly indicates an association with life cycle. There is a purpose in the kind of áo dài worn as one enters the new year. She mentions that people might “buy new áo dàis” – perhaps as a physical representation of newness – or wear their best one as a way of instating luck. G explained that áo dài is a Vietnamese garment that can be worn casually, but a fancier one is considered more formal and correlates with the event for which it’s worn. G also mentions that the color red has some significance. I find this interesting because, though Vietnam is considered a Southeast Asian country, imperialism brought bits of Chinese culture into Vietnamese culture, and the East Asian significance of the color red has been part of Vietnamese tradition, too. Traditions done for the purpose of bringing luck into the new year are incredibly common (ie: Latin Americans eating 12 grapes or bringing a suitcase around the block) – they are meant to induce prosperity, and multiple aspects of wearing fancy, or sometimes red áo dài reflect that folkloric commonality.

Don’t Sweep the Floor on Lunar New Year

Main Piece:

D: On the first day of New Year, you don’t sweep the floor. They believe that you’re gonna sweep away all of the good things– they don’t talk about luck, they talk about wealth, money. So you just keep it inside the house, or maybe you can gather it in one spot and leave it there. Until…maybe– because they celebrate on the first, second, and third [days]– those are the three main, then on the third day, you can take away the trash. Or, if you swept it outside, you can sweep it back in. 


My informant is my father, who was born and raised in Vietnam. Vietnamese New Year is often a large celebration, which goes according to the Lunar calendar. In Vietnamese, New Year is called Tết, and is full of superstitions and traditional practices to ensure the following year will be filled with good luck and fortune. My father’s grandfather and mother thus performed this practice every New Year, however, my father does not believe in it as much. Since immigrating to the United States in the 1990s and having his own family, we have not performed this practice.


This is a transcription of a live conversation between my father and me. He often tells me stories about his life and past and was reminded of this story when I asked him about folk magic.


Though I was born in the United States, being the first generation of American-born children in my family, I was raised with many customs and traditions from Vietnam. Since I was young, Vietnamese New Year has always been a large celebration. Many other customs of the New Year have been continued after my parents’ generation immigrated, while others have not. It’s interesting to see which customs continued and which customs they stopped performing. It seems my grandmother and her generation hold onto certain superstitions much more than my parents and their generation. My father has always been one to not be very superstitious. Thinking of when he was a child, Vietnam was in the midst of war, and after, had to rebuild the country. During this time, financial insecurity was common. I can understand then, why this practice may have been performed more and the superstition believed more during that time when there was much uncertainty. Folk magic is often employed in such times of uncertainty. Specifically, this folk magic practice is homeopathic magic, where the act of sweeping mimics sweeping wealth out of your home (and your possession). Now that my family is not as worried about financial instability, the practice has not been continued. 

Vietnamese New Year

This is a conversation with my friend, identified as C, about Vietnamese New Year. I am identified as IC in this transcription.

IC: When is vietnamese new year? What is it called—is there a vietnamese name for it?

C: It’s called Tết and takes place on the first day of the first month of the lunar year, so usually late Jan or early February

IC: What kind of foods do you eat?

C: My family doesn’t celebrate super traditionally. We usually eat potluck style with a mix of foods. Someone usually will bring a pig, and there’s Gỏi cuốn, which is spring roll with peanut sauce. Also, there’s Chả giò, which is basically an egg roll, Bánh cuốn, rice flour with meat and Chả lụa, which is pork sausage. Most of them are eaten with Nước mam, a diluted fish sauce. We usually have that with a mix of maybe duck, vegetables like green beans or Brussel sprouts or a casserole, sometimes potatoes, a fried rice dish, fried chicken wings.

IC: Is there a reason for eating certain foods?

C: No, not that I know of. There might be but my family isn’t super traditional so I’m not sure.

IC: Are there any activities that you do?

C: Yeah, the older people give the red envelopes with money to younger ones. We call it lì xì. I think there are also other activities that people traditionally do, but we don’t do them so I’m not sure.

IC: That’s cool, Korea has a similar tradition where elders give money to younger ones.

C: Yeah, it’s probably a similar tradition in Asian cultures.

IC: Are there traditional Vietnamese clothes that you wear?

C: My grandma wears the Vietnamese dress called áo dài and people like the colour red, which represents good luck.


My informant is a 22-year-old half-Vietnamese and half-American who was my roommate last year. Although she doesn’t celebrate it very traditionally as she mentioned, she agreed to answer a few questions when I mentioned this project and asked her about it.


This was collected over a casual conversation on FaceTime, as I couldn’t meet with her in person since she went back home to the Bay Area amidst the current pandemic situation.


I didn’t know anything about Vietnamese New Year and hearing about the foods they eat and traditional clothing they wear was interesting to hear. I found the similarity of the money envelope in Korean New Year celebration fascinating. It shows that while traditions are different around the world, some of them have similar roots.