Tet Nguyen-Dan, or "Tet," may fall in late January or early February.
Never earlier than January 21 or later than February 20.
For the majority of Vietnamese, Tet evokes a magic period of the year when everyone forgets his or her misfortune or misery during the previous year. It is the start of the new year in the lunar calendar. Rich or poor, young or old, everyone is going to celebrate it with solemnity and cheerfulness.
As for the altar of ancestors, it is carefully cleaned and decorated. The night before the new year ( -êm giao th-a ), the head of the family burns a joss-stick at the altar to invite the souls of the ancestors to come spending Tet with the living. It is an occasion for the head of the family to pass on to his children the tradition of the cult of ancestors and teach them the rites of the cult. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest takes turn to bow down before the altar, each having a moving idea about the dead and imploring their help for the realization of deep wishes.
One finds on the altar during the days of Tet not only refined dishes, hand picked fruits, cakes, especially the sweet rice cake and cups of tea or water, but also branches of flowering peach tree.
The Vietnamese believe the first day and the first week of the new year will determine their fortunes or misfortunes for the rest of the year.
It is a time to pay debts, forgive others, correct one's faults, and start the new year with a clean slate.
During Tet, all actions should be pure and beautiful since one's attitude during the first few days of the new year sets the tone for the remainder of the year.
During the Tet festival, Vietnamese stores and businesses are closed for at least 3 days.
Tet is also the festival of children. They put on the most beautiful of their dresses and play together in the fireworks on the street. They receive from adults a red envelope containing a bill or a coin that would bring them luck for the whole year. As for adults, they go in procession in pagodas and try to know their future by pulling each a divinatory stick. It is also the occasion to obey certain elementary rules that all Vietnamese must know: banning bad words, toning down quarrels.
It is also the occasion to see the unicorn dance ( Múa Lân ) or the Dragon dance. This animal whose head is magnificently decorated and whose body is carried by several dancers, weaves and waves to the rhythm of drum sounds. It is always accompanied by another smiling and portbellied dancer wearing a saffron robe ( Ong Ð-a ). It is the dance-combat between men and animals, between the Good and the Evil that is always ended up with the triumph of men over animals.
Each year is symbolized by a cycle of 12 animals:
From his or her birth, each individual possesses an astral sign which is symbolized by the animal symbol for the year of birth.
Tý, S-u, D-n, M-o, Thìn, T-, Ng-, Mùi, Thân, D-u, Tu-t , H-i
Rat, Buffalo, Tiger, Cat, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig
Tet, which means the first morning of the first day of the new year. Like the Chinese, the Lunar New Year is one of the most celebrated holidays.
According to the Vietnamese Zodiac, 2004 is the Year of the Monkey.
Clever & quick-witted, Monkeys are successful in every endeavor. Inquisitive, they constantly seek new opportunities & adventure. Their intellect & versatility allow them to adapt to any situation. Their mischievous spirit is entertaining.
Equivalent to Leo
Self-reliant and independent, the Rooster is not one to seek counsel. They are confident and aggressive and are most at home in a crowd. A perfectionist, they leave no detail undocumented. Roosters will never abandon their dreams.
Equivalent to Virgo