Vietnamese Lunar New Year (Tet or Tet Nguyen Dan in Vietnamese) is the most important traditional holiday in Vietnam and also marks the longest public holiday in the country with up to ten consecutive work-free days. 

The most important aspect of the Lunar New Year in Vietnam is the emphasis on the old traditions and family relations. For most Vietnamese, visiting their parents over the holidays is crucial; weeks before the holiday, flight and train ticket prices sharply increase, as people leave the major hubs of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang towards their hometowns. 

Tet is the Vietnamese version of the Lunar New Year in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan but is also influential in areas with major Chinese diasporas, such as Singapore. Several other Asian countries, including South Korea and Vietnam, celebrate their own lunar new year holidays as well.

The date of the festival is dictated by the Lunisolar calendar and can therefore fall anywhere between January 21 and February 20. This year, the transition from the year of the Buffalo to the year of the Tiger will begin on February 1, though preparations begin already after the western new year and before. In 2022, the holiday begins from January 29 (Saturday) and lasts until February 6 (Sunday).

Though Tet shares the same origins with the Chinese New Year, it is celebrated with unique Vietnamese characteristics that distinguish it from forms of the festival anywhere else. One example is the preparation and consumption of distinctive traditional foods with their own symbolic value (glutinous rice cake, braised pork dishes, pickled vegetables, and candied fruits among many others).

In celebration of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, families will be cleaning and decorating their houses to prepare for the Ong Cong Ong Tao (Kitchen Guardians’ Day) ceremony on the 23rd day of the last month of the lunar year. This is usually the time of the year for family gatherings as families will prepare a feast to worship the three kitchen guardians and ask for a full kitchen for the rest of the year.

Red envelopes, or ‘Li Xi’ in Vietnamese, are commonly given to children, younger colleagues, and supporting staff during the Lunar New Year Period. The significance of these red packets is the red envelopes themselves, which are seen to symbolize energy, happiness, and good luck. Therefore, when a red envelope is given, this is seen as sending good wishes, happiness, and luck to the receiver.

One aspect especially business owners and also foreign employers should be aware of is the custom of paying a Tet bonus to each staff, which can be as much as a monthly salary or more.

During the 2021 Lunar New Year, over 30,000 businesses nationwide reported Tet bonuses with an average amount of VND 6.36 million (US$280), down 5 percent compared to the previous year due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

According to a study by the HCMC Department of Labor Invalids and Social Affairs, the average Tet bonus was reported to be VND 8.8 million (US$386.76) this year, the same as that of 2021.

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This article was first published by VietnamBriefing which is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices across the world, including in in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, India, and Russia. Readers may write to [email protected]

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