In Vietnam, the Lunar New Year is commonly referred to as “Tết” or “Tết Nguyên Đán.”
The term “Nguyên” signifies beginning, and “Đán” translates to complete, symbolizing a fresh start. Originally, “Tết” denoted a season in Vietnamese culture, rooted in wet rice agriculture, recognizing 24 different seasons to meet cultivation requirements. The most pivotal season marked the start of the farming cycle, known as the planting season, eventually evolving into the celebrated Lunar New Year or Tết Nguyên Đán.
The most significant tradition during Tết is “chúc Tết,” where people extend good luck wishes to one another for the forthcoming year. This tradition was born from the belief that Tết is a time of change - a farewell to the old year and a welcome to the new. It’s a moment of seasonal change, where heaven and earth seem to transform, bringing forth new beginnings. Everyone harbors their dreams and ambitions, hoping for the best in the year ahead.
Hence, the custom of exchanging good wishes in the early days of the year was formed. People give each other nice Tết wishes to help friends and relatives achieve their aspirations. This beautiful tradition carried down through thousands of years, enables each generation to express love and gratitude by wishing the best for others.
Especially crucial during the earliest days of Tet is the person to whom one gives Tet wishes. This practice is rooted in an ancient saying: “Mùng 1 Tết cha, mùng 2 Tết mẹ, mùng 3 Tết thầy” (First day of Tet is for the father, second day of Tet is for the mother, third day of Tet is for the teacher).
The first three days of Tet are dedicated to honoring and expressing gratitude to those who have played significant roles in our lives. By assigning specific days to our parents and teachers, we are reminded of their sacrifices and contributions to our growth. This heartwarming tradition of appreciation reinforces the importance of family, respect, and gratitude in Vietnamese culture.
Mùng 1: The first day of Tết
The first day of Tet is dedicated to the father because he holds the highest position in the traditional belief of Vietnamese folk. This belief is deeply rooted in Vietnamese folk traditions, emphasizing the father as the head of the family, as reflected in the ancient saying: “A home without a father is like a house without a roof.”
This sentiment highlights the father’s crucial role in maintaining the family unit, much like a roof, which provides essential protection, support, and shelter. Therefore, on this day, wishes are traditionally bestowed upon fathers, with a special focus on the eldest paternal figures in the family.
Mùng 2: The second day of Tết
The second day of Tet is devoted to the mother, symbolizing her nurturing role and the love she provides to the family. This day typically involves visits to maternal relatives, strengthening kinship bonds, and expressing gratitude for their support and affection. Families also take a moment to honor and remember deceased maternal relatives, paying their respects at gravesites or ancestral altars.
Mùng 3: The third day of Tết
On the third day of Tet, people show their respect to their teachers, recognizing their role in shaping minds and building character. This reflects the Vietnamese cultural norm of “Tôn sư trọng đạo,” emphasizing the importance of students respecting teachers.
The day is traditionally marked by warm and heartfelt greetings, along with generous gift-giving to both past and present teachers. It serves as a special occasion for students to express gratitude for the invaluable education and guidance they have received. Similarly, it is a time for teachers to feel appreciated and reminisce about the impact they have made in the lives of their students.
Common expressions to use for Tet wishes
There are numerous ways to express New Year wishes. How individuals extend their wishes can vary based on factors like the nature of their relationship, personality, and preference for elaborate or simple expressions. Wishes can range from formal to personal or even humorous. Here are some of the most frequently used wishes.
Wishes usually start with “I wish you” or “I hope you” and are completed with the following phrase:
- “Chúc mừng năm mới!” (Happy New Year!)
- “Sức khỏe dồi dào” (Plenty of health)
- “Thành công rực rỡ” (Radiant success)
- “Tiền vô như nước” (Money flows in like water)
- “An khang thịnh vượng” (Security, good health, and prosperity)
- “Vạn sự như ý” (May all things go favorably)
- “Phát tài phát lộc” (Prosperity and wealth)
- “Tấn tài tấn lộc” (A ton of wealth and prosperity)
- “Cung hỉ phát tài” (Congratulations on your wealth)
- “Sống lâu trăm tuổi” (Live a long life of 100 years)
The essence of Tet wishes
Over these three days, Vietnamese people honor their parents and teachers, who may not usually be present daily. This reunion is essential as Buddhism identifies “the suffering of love and separation” among human sufferings. This sentiment encapsulates the longing and desire to reunite and the pain of separation. After working all year tirelessly, often far from home, family, friends, and loved ones, who wouldn’t yearn for a chance to meet relatives and reminisce about the past?
Therefore, these three days provide a break from the ordinary routine, which allows Vietnamese to return home and pay tribute to those who have shaped them, reflecting the beautiful tradition of “Uống nước nhớ nguồn.”