Origin and humanistic meaning of Vietnam Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year or Spring is not only the desire of children as they will be delighted in new clothes; be enjoying jam and especially be received lucky money but it also bears a very profound meaning.

Lunar New Year or Spring is not only the desire of children as they will be delighted in new clothes; be enjoying jam and especially be received lucky money but it also bears a very profound meaning. It’s the time of transition between the old year and the new one, between all the things on earth. It’s the time for desires of everlasting life, the harmony between Heaven, Earth and People, the solidarity among community and family. Lunar New Year is also an opportunity for people to look forward their origin. It’s profound spiritual values of Vietnamese, which have become respectful traditions.

Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan) is also called Tet Ca, Tet Ta, Tet in Lunar calendar, New Year or simply Tet. “Tet” is “tiet”. The word of “Nguyen Dan” is originated from Chinese, in which “nguyen” mean the start and “dan” means the new morning. In a more precisely, it must be pronounced as “Tiet Nguyen Dan”. Tet Nguyen Dan in Vietnam is call with love as “Tet Ta” (Lunar New Year) to identify with “Western Tet” (New Year).

 

the-ancient-hanoi-street-in-the-period-of-lunar-new-year

An ancient Hanoi in the days of Lunar New Year with cherry bloosom.

 

When Lunar New Year starts?

Due to the different in counting calendar between Vietnamese and Chinese, Lunar New Year in Vietnam is not completely coincides with it in China or other countries affected by Chinese culture.
As Lunar calendar follows the operating cycle of the moon, Lunar New Year happens latter than New Year. Each 3 year in lunar calendar, there is one additional month, so the starting day of Lunar New Year is never earlier than January 21st and later than February 19th in calendar, but happens around the time between the end of January and middle of February. Tet lasts for around 7 or 8 days of the old year and 7 days of the new year (from 23rd December to 7th January in Lunar calendar).

 

Origin of Lunar New Year

Vietnam was affected strongly by the culture of China due to more than 1000 year of North colonized. Lunar New Year was imported from China since then. According to Chinese history, Lunar New Year started under Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors period and has changed from time to time. Under Tam Vuong period of Ha dynasty, people ware in favour of black colour, so they chose January or the month of Tiger. Thuong dynasty preferred white, so chose the moth of Buffalo or December in lunar calendar as the first month of the year. Chu dynasty chose the month of Rat or November in lunar calendar as the month of Tet for they were interested in red. These above Kings followed the conception about time like this: the hour of Rat means sky. The hour of Buffalo means land and the hour of Tiger gives human life. Thus, they had Tet holiday at different time.

 

cherry-bloosom-on-hoan-kiem-lake

Hoan Kiem Lake is more charming with cherry bloosom in Lunar New Year.


Under Dong Chu dynasty, Khong Tu decided Tet month was the month of Tiger (January in Lunar calendar). Under Tan Dynasty, (3rd century AD) Tan Thuy Hoang changed it to the month of Pig or October in lunar calendar. Under Han dynasty, Han Vu De (140 AD) had Tet on the month of tiger (or January in lunar calendar). From that time on, no one has changed the month of Tet.
Under the dynasty of Dong Phuong Soc, he said that on the first foundation day of the earth, we have chicken, then dog on the second day, pig on the third day, goat on the forth day, buffalo on the fifth day, horse on sixth day, human on the seventh day and cereals on the eighth day. Thus, Tet is often talked about from 1st day to 7th day.

 

Meanings of Lunar New Year

In the conception of the Eastern people, Tet is the time expressing the sympathetic between people, nature and gods. More importantly, it’s the reunion day of family members. Despite the job you do, the place your are in, 3 days of Tet is the time that all people wish to be back to gather under family’s roof to worship their ancestors, to visit a temple, a tomb, a well, an old yard, etc,. to live again with intimate memories of childhood. “Back Home for Tet” is not just a common phrase showing our activity of coming or going, but a journey of people, returning to motherland, to the source of origin.

 

the-traditional-fruit-copper-for-worship

Tray of fruits & flowers for worshipping in Lunar New Year.


Lunar New Year is a sacred event of saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming a new year with better health, better work and more happiness for individuals and families. Vietnamese said that Lunar New Year is an opportunity to show in a profound and specific way our dogma of gratefulness: when you drink water, remember the source. Looking forward our source is the spiritual and sentimental values of Vietnamese for Tet. This value has become our stable and good traditional lifestyle.

People believe that on Tet holiday, our ancestors will appear on our altars to witness their children’s gratefulness, and then support them with good health, stable work and happy life. It’s spiritual meaning of Lunar New Year.

By lighting some incense, preparing a tray of foods offering ancestors on Tet holiday, Vietnamese feel pleasure and willing to continue their life in the coming year.

 

chung-cake-in-lunar-new-year

Chung cake - a traditional foods for Vietnam New Year.

 

On Tet, Vietnamese prepare their affluent living standard with ethic and good traditions. For example, their meals are good, tasty and more nutritious than other days; their dress must be nice despite their gender, their jobs, their ages or their positions.

On Tet, everyone wants to be closer to each other, say good things by carefully selected words. For instance, it is necessary to wish people good health, longevity, or to earn many times more than the previous year. Those wishes seem to be exaggerations, but are pleasure to hear and trustworthy. Tet is the chance for people to reconcile all the disagreements as a quotation that: it’s not until Tet that we reconcile the anger to death.

Those are the ethical and esthetical values that Vietnamese wish to achieve. Thus, Tet days are really the the happy days for every people.