Goodbye Traffic, Hello Tet!
Tet in Vietnam is the country’s busiest time, and yet also the quietest week of the year in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnamese people love nothing better at Tet than to get together with their families. This sees a mass migration throughout the country every time the holiday comes round. Millions of Vietnamese travel back to their hometowns to spend the holiday with their loved ones. It is a moveable feast in the Gregorian calendar, as it signals the start of the Lunar New Year at the end of January.
“The full title is Tet Nguyen Dan, which translates as the Feast of the First Morning of the First Day.”
The country has used the Gregorian Calendar since 1954, but it still uses the lunar calendar to observe some holidays and commemorations, including Tet and the Mid-Autumn Festival. It is also worth noting that The Vietnamese calendar varies slightly from that of the Chinese. The Chinese use Coordinated Universal Time (GMT) +8 hours, whereas Vietnam is UTC +7 hours. This was chosen by North Vietnam in 1967 and the South joined in 1975 at the end of the war. The one hour difference sometimes means that the new moon falls on a different day and therefore there is a whole day’s difference between the two countries.
Vietnamese prepare special holiday food for Tet and give their houses a thorough spring clean. Holiday food includes different types of rice cakes called banh chung, and banh day; canh sang which is dried young bamboo soup; sausages called gio; and sticky rice.
Each day of the holiday is reserved for different purposes. Day 1 is for the immediate family, the 2nd for friends and the 3rd for teachers. Children look forward to receiving their red envelopes containing lucky money.
As people return home to their villages, so Ho Chi Minh City empties. Many businesses close down completely and the city becomes a place of solace. This is the one time of the year when traffic disappears, streets fall quiet and the choking smog dissipates. Many bars and restaurants also close, meaning that there is a lot less to do than normally. It is, however, a wonderful time to just chill out.
“Last year I rode down Dong Khoi on a Sunday afternoon and I was the only vehicle that I saw.”
What’s on in Ho Chi Minh City during Tet? One of the highlights in the city centre is the annual flower show that takes place. Nguyen Hue will be transformed into a magnificent garden in a truly breathtaking display. It is hard to believe that this is a temporary show, such is the amount of work that goes into it.
For families with children, many of the parks in city like Dam Sen Park and Suoi Tien Park are great choices to spend your holidays. Activities during Tet include music shows in the evenings, and the parks are full of colourful decorations as a festive atmosphere looms large.