- Think the colour red – give watermelon or dragon fruit, for example
- For children, money inside a red envelope or lì xì. Make sure the notes are brand-new.
- Orange or gold-coloured gifts are also great – two easy ideas are mandarins and pomegranates.
- Wrap gifts in red or gold paper, or with red or gold ribbon
- Scarves are an old favorite – you can’t go wrong, but don’t choose anything in white or black
- A cumquat tree or a peach tree branch covered in blossom – everyone will love you for this
- For old people, you can give a Dong Ho painting
- Wine – a winning idea, especially if it’s imported
- Preserved fruit is hugely popular – candied coconut & ginger are definitely good choices
- Nuts – peanuts are a bit lowbrow; instead choose cashews or pistachios. The more expensive, the better
Emporium – 172 Xuan Dieu St: Business as usual, open 9am to 8pm every day
Emporium – 39 Xuan Dieu St: Closed 4th, 5th & 6th February
Villa Eatalia: Closed 3rd & 4th FebruaryO
Body & Soul Spa, 84 To Ngoc Van St: Closed 3d to 10th February
Sushi Dokoro, 95 Xuan Dieu St: Closed from 3rd to 5th February
Cugini’s To Ngoc Van St: Closed 3rd to 8th February
The Kneipe, 52 To Ngoc Van St: Open every day
L’s Place – 1 Xuan Dieu St: Closes 4pm on 4th February, opens 10am on 8th Feb
El Gaucho 99 Xuan Dieu St: Open every day
One Dental Clinic: Closed 4th to 9th February
Bookworm, Chau Long St: Open every day
Intercontinental Hotel, Westlake: open every day
Starbucks Xuan Dieu: Closes 12:00 noon 4th Feb; Opens 12:00 noon 5th Feb
St Honore – 5 Xuan Dieu St: Closes afternoon of 4th Feb ; Re-opens 9th February
Hung Long Minimart 71B Xuan Dieu St – Closed 5th February, opens 8th February
Republic – 12 Quang An St- Feb 3 to Feb 8: 12pm to 22pm. Open as normal from 9/2
Chops – Quang An St: : Feb 3 to Feb 8: 12:00pm to 10:00pm. Open as normal from 9/2
SOS/Raffles Medical: Closed Feb 4 to Feb 8
Family Medical Practice: Open 24/7 ph. 024 3843 0748
O’Douceurs – 90 To Ngoc Van St: Closed 2nd to 12th February
The mythical origins of bánh chưng, a traditional Tet food in Vietnam, go back to the sixth Hung King, whose son created the recipe for the steamed cake in a bid to become his father’s only heir. The green leaves that encase a bánh chưng represent the earth, reflecting the green forests, mountains and meadows of Vietnam. Inside the cake, hidden beneath a thick layer of sticky rice, are beans and pork, which are symbols of the earth’s plants and animals. During Tet, families make bánh chưng and offer them to their ancestors, and share them with friends. This year, you’ll know exactly what you’re biting into – a piece of Vietnamese heritage.
Giving lì xì or red envelopes containing lucky money is an integral aspect of Tet. Foreigners are very welcome to join in this custom. Apparently, it’s not the amount of money inside the envelope that counts – it’s the thought – so don’t get hung up deciding on how much to give. Anything from 10,000 vnd upwards is fine, but make sure the money you put in the envelope is new and clean. Many Vietnamese will go to the bank before Tet just to get hold of brand new money for their lì xì. Giving old and tattered notes is considered disrespectful.
If you receive some lucky money, don’t be in a hurry to spend it. It’s better to save your lucky money to use on something special. Both givers and receivers of lì xì will be lucky in the ensuing year. By handing out lì xì, you are inviting the flow of money and luck into your own household.
Avoid swearing or using negative words in the first few days of the new year. It is believed that words like dead (chết) and sad (buồn) may haunt you for the whole year. It’s better to talk about the future in positive terms – use words like hope (mong or hy vọng) and sẽ (to indicate the future tenses) – and reflect on happy memories from the previous year. If your Tet is conflict-free and full of positive energy, fun and laughter, the ensuing year will be smooth.
If you’ve ever seen these colourful bottles and wondered about their purpose, here’s the answer. Translated as “cereal bottles”, it’s a common practise in Buddhist families to place these bottles on the altar, especially at Tet time. The decorative bottles contain 6 kinds of commonly-eaten beans and cereals that bring luck into the household. If one of these bottles graces your altar, you will not have to worry about feeding your family in the new year. We bought our bottle at the Buddhist supermarket on Quan Su St in the Old Quarter. It’s a Tet gift that shows you understand Vietnamese culture.
In the north of Vietnam, the 2 most popular trees for Tet are the kumquat and the peach. Decorating your home with one or both of these trees signifies growth and luck for the new year.
If you’re buying a branch of a Cây Đào (peach tree) rather than a potted bonsai version, as soon as you take it home, lightly char the stump of the branch over a gas stove. Next, ensure that there’s plenty of water in the base of the vase you display the branch in, as this will prolong the life of the flowers. Check on the water level every few days to ensure that the stump of the branch is always immersed.
Never give watches or clocks as Tet gifts, as they are reminders of our mortality. Mirrors are also a bad idea, as they can attract malicious ghosts, and they’re easily broken and this can lead to bad luck. Knives and scissors, in fact anything sharp and pointy, are taboo as gifts as they symbolise cutting off a friendship.
Cats should never be given as gifts during Tet, for the noise they make sounds similar to the Vietnamese word for poor, ngheo. Engagement rings and marriage proposals are also not a popular ‘gift’ at Tet, because if the woman turns down the man’s offer, he may be plagued by bad luck in the coming year. While we’re on the topic of rings, don’t buy a ring for a Vietnamese woman during Tet because it’s bad luck for her to come into contact with metal – you guessed it – because it brings bad luck.
Finally, never make a gift of pepper during the Lunar New Year because the word for pepper (hạt TIÊU) sounds like the word for dissipate (TIÊU tan).
The Lunar New Year period in Vietnam, Tet, is a shortened version of its full name: Tet Nguyen Dan which translates to “the first morning of the first day of the new year”. One of the main tasks for Vietnamese families in the run-up to this time is to cleanse their homes and lives of any bad luck from the previous year: settling debts, resolving ongoing disputes and spring cleaning the home.
This year, the first day of Tet will fall on Tuesday 5th February 2019, and this day will usher in the final year in the 12-year lunar cycle, the Year of the Pig. Last time Year of the Pig hit Vietnam, it was accompanied by a baby boom, as many parents felt that the characteristics of those born during this lunar year were desirable, for people born under this sign are supposed to be loyal and very genuine, and are blessed with good fortune.
The official Tet holiday period for 2019 in Vietnam starts on 4th February and finishes on 10th February.