This is what happens in China (the Chinese new year is now well-known also in many west cities), but also in Vietnam, where every year in all the cities, and in particular in Hanoi, the new year is celebrated in a very enthusiastic way. The Vietnamese new year is very similar to the Chinese one, and the first day of the year is usually the same in both countries, with few exceptions: the 2009 new year will begin, both in China and in Vietnam, on the 26th January (the lunar year always begins on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar) and will open the year of the buffalo (each year corresponds to a different animal).
Although it is similar to the Chinese new year, the Vietnamese new year, which is called Tt Nguyên án (feast of the first morning), is characterised by its own rituals, celebrations and habits. According to the tradition, the celebrations for the beginning of the Vietnamese new year, which is considered a national feast, cover three days, but in fact they last much more, also depending on where they take place, in the South or in the North of the country, and in this period all the activities slow down in a notable way. Celebrations for the beginning of the Vietnamese new year share many features with several west feasts, and for this reason the Tt can be considered as the most important event in the country: it is the feast that marks the beginning of the new year and of spring, but it is also the day in which people exchange gifts, in which children receives presents because they are one year older, in which people visit friends and relatives and remember the dead.
Such a diversified feast must be characterised by a number of different traditions and rituals. In the weeks before the Tt all families are very busy going shopping (since during the Tt many shops are closed) and decorating their house: in particular, people are used to display a tree, the cây nêu, and to decorate it with different objects, such as paper fishes (realised following the origami tradition) and good luck charms. Also preparing food is a particularly important activity during T?t: some dishes are prepared only in this period, and most are vegetarian dishes (meat is banned because people believe that eating meat on the first day of the year could bring bad luck) that need a long preparation, in some cases even days long.
The Tt marks the beginning of a new year, and for this reason it is believed that all that is done during these days will influence the rest of the year; this is why before and during Tt people try to act always in a positive way: they clean their houses, they open new shops, they pay their debts and solve disputes, they buy new clothes, they polish and visit their relatives’ graves, they exchange gifts and wish each other good luck and money. The ritual of visiting friends and relatives during the first day of the year is considered as particularly important: it is believed, indeed, that the first visit will have an influence on the rest of the year.
The celebrations for the lunar new year are a great event, and everybody should take part in it at least once in a lifetime. If you would like to celebrate a different new year’s beginning, rich in history and tradition, book now your cheap hostel in Hanoi. Date: 26th January 2009 Location: Hanoi, Vietnam