Written by 11:54 am Everyday Life, Life English • 2 Comments

What is the Taste of Tết?

TẾT is known as the biggest traditional Vietnamese Festival since it marks the transition between an old year and a new one. TẾT has been celebrated in Vietnam from generation to generation, and it also experienced many ups and downs by itself. TẾT used to be seen as an old-fashioned festival and it should be canceled because of the High Pressure and Costs it brings to the Vietnamese each year. It is such a dead-end argument, and it becomes “very hot” in late January and early February. Some opt to travel during Tết to avoid being busy because of Tết, while some are excited and immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere that Tết is bringing to them. Whatever people think about Tết, old-fashioned or culturally valuable, I still enjoy Tết and excitedly find out what the Taste of Tết is when the new year comes.

Derek’s Dairy of 30th Lunar December 2022

(#30ThangChap #NhâmDần)

My mother demonstrated a lot of things about Tết when I was a little boy. She showed me how busy adults were to prepare for a warm and full Tết, and how excited kids were to welcome Tết filled with happiness and good luck.

This year marks the fifth Tết I have had to prepare and do everything by myself. My preparation skills have been much improved for years. I know how to effectively manage my budget for Tết, how to prepare things for Tết from A to Z, how to cook dishes and do a series of offerings from the Kitchen God’s Day to the God of Wealth Day.

When it comes to Tết, I usually ask myself what the taste of Tết is. Is it “tasty” or “delicious”? How can I taste it as my grandparents did? I have been pinning that question in my head for many years.

As usual, that question came up in my mind this year. And I decided to find out the answer for myself.

Question #1: Why are people always busy and excited before Tết?

Every year, when it comes to the Kitchen God’s Day (#23ThangChap #23rdLunarDecember), Vietnamese people usually start using the Lunar Calendar. It’s a habit of counting down to the moment of welcoming the new year. I do it as a habit and tradition, I didn’t notice the meaning or any implications of it. This year, I can feel it better when I focus on it 100%. When I start using the Lunar Calendar, I feel like I am using the same language that my grandparents or ancestors used before. I could feel the festive atmosphere and also the responsibilities of a traditional Vietnamese person should take. As you can see, the festive atmosphere brings you excitement and the responsibilities keep you busy! 

Question #2: Why do people often do a lot of offerings before and during Tết?

We, Vietnamese people,  have a rich spiritual life, we believe that there exist Gods who support and bless us every day. There are essential offerings that no Vietnamese people can cancel or skip. Let’s say:

#1: The Kitchen God’s Day on 23rd Lunar December

#2: Lunar New Year’s Eve Meal to invite ancestors and deceased family members to celebrate Tết and reunite with their children and grandchildren on the 29th (in a non-leap year) or 30th of Lunar December (in  a leap year)

#3: The Offering to Heaven and Earth at midnight – the special transition moment between the old year and the new year

#4: The Ceremony of Finishing Tết on the 3rd or 4th day of Tết  to see off the ancestors and the souls of relatives to the invisible world

#5: The God of Wealth Day on the 1oth day of Tet to pray for abundance, wealth, and prosperity

They are a good time for us to do offerings as a big thank you to the Gods. These moments teach us to know how to be grateful and responsible. Also, to some extent, doing offerings can make people relieved and hopeful for new things to come. Personally, I positively keep these offerings as the root of my soul, and never forget to remind myself of working harder and smarter when  I do prayers. 

You will never figure out what I mentioned above if you are not living on your own and have to prepare everything from A to Z.

Question #3: What makes people  “truly happy” at Tết?

The last question is the most crucial one. I used to think that the answer came from:

  • New and beautiful clothes
  • Lots of lucky money from grandparents, parents, and relatives
  • Relaxing time and delicious food …

However, these answers were not true. It has been 8 years since my eldest sister moved to the United States to work and live. The number of members in my family who celebrate Tết together is not like it was before. And 5 years later my sister brought my nephew to the USA to live with her. Now, our family members are celebrating Tết in different countries, different places, and different time zones. It’s hard for us to be together as before.

I still remember the time my siblings and I competed with each other to clean up our bedrooms, the winner would get 50.000VND from my father, or the time my eldest sister and I rode a motorbike around to buy flowers and coconuts for my mother, or the time we dressed up beautifully to greet parents with good wishes on the 1st day of Tết. There are a lot of memories when I look back on what we did at many Tết before.

Additionally, my parents are getting older and older. They always look forward to seeing all their children and grandchildren together at the “Giao Thừa” Moment and the 1st day of Tết. I think it’s now quite difficult to make their dream come true. And I know what the taste of Tết is when seeing my mom and dad. The taste of Tết is not complicated as I used to think, whereas it is very simple – Let’s say it in 2 words – FAMILY REUNION.

Message from #LifeEnglishwithDerek




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