When is Tet?
Tet usually falls in late January or early/mid-February. This is the occasion for Vietnamese people to gather in their hometowns, welcome the lunar New Year with family members, express their respects for ancestors, or respective places of worship like pagodas, temples to pray for a good year.
Based on the lunar calendar, the festival can vary from year to year, and is celebrated in one week. However, people prepare for Tet for days in advance, as they clean their houses, go shopping, and prepare good ingredients delicious meals. Homes are decorated with Hoa Mai (yellow apricot blossom), Hoa Dao (peach blossom), Kumquat tree and many other colorful flowers. On the first days of New Year, everybody, especially kids, wear new clothes, visit relatives, and enjoy the traditional Tet food like Banh Chung (sticky rice cake). The children can receive “lucky money” in red envelopes.
What to expect?
Tet is a great time to see Viet Nam at its most colorful, especially in a city like Ha Noi. This is the most important festival for Vietnamese, preparations for celebration begins well in advance. Since half a month before Tet, Ha Noi has been busy with all its preparation activities. Streets, especially the Old Quarter, are filled with products in red, the lucky color for new year. People flock to shopping malls or markets to buy food, gifts, flowers, trees and decorative items. The best part of Tet is the eagerness and festive atmosphere in the markets; it makes you forget the worries of everyday life and simply enjoy the atmosphere, unique foods and gifts. The markets offer almost everything for the festival, especially typical Vietnamese foods like sweet dried fruits, red water lemon seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, salted eastern onions, salted vegetables, Banh Chung (green sticky rice cake), Banh Giay (white sticky rice cake), Vietnamese sausages, and so much more.
There are several markets you should visit:
- Dong Xuan Market in the Old Quarter, one of the biggest wholesale markets in Ha Noi. If offers not only various products like clothes, gifts and handicrafts, but also many Vietnamese specialties, which will make you stunned.
- Quang Ba Flower Market (most crowded at night: 11:00 PM to down) at Au Co Street, Nhat Tan Ward, Tay Ho District. This is the gathering place for famous brands flowers from flower villages not only in Ha Noi but in Da Lat, China and even abroad, you can buy domestic flowers along with numerous of other exotic ones like iris, delphiniums and tulips. Closer the Tet (Vietnamese New Year Holiday), the market gets busier and merrier, not only flower dealers come here to buy flowers for resale but also many just come to see, take photograph and enjoy Tet atmosphere. Not only flowers, but decorative papers, colored strings and so many things are also found here.
- Hang Luoc Flower Market – Hang Luoc Street, the Old Quarter, Ha Noi: A week or two before Tet, seasonal flower markets open in multiple locations around Ha Noi; Hang Luoc seems to be the most exciting and crowded. Shops are closed and the streets are cleared for the market. Fresh peach blossom branches, colorful flowers and trees are on sales. Buyers wander around the market until they find the most beautiful branch for their house, and bargain to get the best prices.
Flowers in Quang Ba Market
What to do during Tet
Be informed that most local businesses are closed during Tet, except some restaurants and coffee shops. In the first day of the Lunar New Year, streets are surprisingly quiet, since all of the businesses are closed. People mostly gather with family members. You can walk around the Old Quarter and enjoy the early chill of a new year, an exotic experience that you would never see on any other day. The second and third days are more for traveling, as people visit pagodas and hang out with friends. You can visit some famous pagodas and temples, such as One Pillar Pagoda, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Temple of Literature, Ngoc Som Temple and Quan Thanh Temple. Streets are quiet and light in traffic, and less crowded during Tet - this is a great time for people to enjoy the tranquility.
Hang Ma Street