Get ready to ride the Tiger. The Lunar New Year celebration is on Sunday, February 14. For the next three weekends, Vietnamese communities all over the world will be kicking off festivities for Tet Nguyen Dan (that’s our official name). Take it all in as Tet is like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Yom Kippur, and Easter all rolled up into one. The build up and fervor can be overwhelming as people try to square away all unfinished business before the New Year commences. Repaying debts, cleaning the house, and xong dat New Year greetings are some of the ways that Vietnamese people address Tet superstitions and ensure good luck for the next twelve months. Tet gift baskets to your superiors work too!
At Vietnamese markets, delis, and bakeries, you’ll find an array of colorful candies, sweetmeats, cakes, cookies, pickles and sticky rice cakes called banh chung and banh tet. The cakes are must-haves for Tet. They are essentially supersized dumplings wrapped in banana leaves and boiled for hours. They may look like abobe bricks or door stops, but don’t be put off as they are really delicious when made well.
Most people buy the giant, tamale-like dumpling wrapped up in fragrant leaves. I prepare my own as it’s a nice way to keep tasty traditions alive. The wrapping and boiling takes a day, but I have a foursome of banh chung (that's one of my homemade ones!) to eat over months as the sticky rice cakes filled with mung beans and pork freeze exceptionally well.
If there is a Vietnamese community near you, NOW is the time to look for Tet festivals. For example, in California we have:
Bay Area Tet Festivals
2/7, 10am-6pm: San Francisco Tet Festival, Larkin Street (b/n Eddy and O’Farrell)
2/13 & 14: San Jose Tet Festival, Santa Clara Fairgrounds
At events such as these, expect food booths, art and crafts, variety type shows featuring local talent, and lion dances. Some women and girls dress up in traditional ao dai outfits.
How will you celebrate Tet this year? To get your creative juices going, take a look at these links:
- The Year of the Tiger: Tiger birth years, traits, and famous tigers/tigresses
- Simple Ways to Celebrate Tet: Easy, no-sweat things to do for Tet, such as a downloadable Tet couplet for your door, pointers on how to wish people “Happy New Year” in Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin, and how to attract good luck for the New Year (xong dat)
- How to find a Tet Festival: Tips for locating these events, which hare typically advertised only in the Vietnamese community!
- Traditional Tet Flowers and Blossoms: My father used to cut blooming branches from trees he found in the neighborhood. You can clip like him, or buy, like me. This post tells you what to look for.
- Special Foods for Tet Celebrations: What is typically eaten during this holiday? Great for menu planning.
- Banh Chung and Banh Tet: What are they and how do you eat these sticky rice cakes
- Chicken and Bamboo Shoot Noodle Soup Recipe (Bun Mang Ga)
- Banh Chung Tet Sticky Rice Cake Recipe
- Candied Lotus Seeds Recipe