Tet- Vietnamese New Year

Informant is from San Jose, California, a city with a very large Vietnamese population.

“So in addition to the regular January 1st New Year that everyone in the US celebrates, my family and I also celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is called Tet in Vietnamese. Basically, it is usually in late January or early February, and is when the new lunar cycle begins, which marks the beginning of the year in many Asian countries like Vietnam. During Tet, there are a few superstitions and traditions that everyone follows to have good luck for the next year, and there is a ton of food and gathering around with family.”

Tell me about some of the traditions.

“Well, my parents always told me that whatever you do on the first day of the year, you will do for the rest of the year, so you’re supposed to practice good habits and be clean and all that. Uhh… Oh, also, you aren’t supposed to work or do any cleaning around the house, as people believe that you will sweep away any good luck. One of the big traditions, and my favorite tradition, is giving out red envelopes with money to all of the children, which is supposed to be a sign of fortune and good luck. Other than that, there is a lot of good food, and there are Tet festivals in San Jose and I think in Orange County too.”


Collector’s Comments:

The Lunar New Year is commonly celebrated in many Asian countries, and this is a variation of that celebration. Some of the traditions seem to be the same across the cultures, such as giving out the red envelopes and the feast. However, the no-cleaning rule is very interesting, in that it seems to imply that luck can be brought in and out of the house, which is something that I haven’t heard before. This is a holiday that is familiar, yet unique, to many different peoples.