Tet Holiday is the biggest and the most important holidays in Vietnam, which is an occasion for family reunion after a hard working year. It is also regarding several unique customs, rituals as well as cultural features that you shouldn’t miss throughout your Vietnam journey.
So what are exactly things to do on Tet Holiday in SaiGon?
10 things to do in the Vietnamese lunar new year
1. Having gastronomic experience by savoring the traditional delicacies.
One of the most significant dishes that you must to taste is “Bánh Tét”. “Bánh Tét” (round glutinous rice cake) is a traditional cake enjoyed by southern Vietnamese people on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. It is considered a variant of "Bánh Chưng" (square glutinous rice cake), which is more prevalent in the northern region.
Bánh Tét and Bánh Chưng. Source: internet.
Both of "Bánh Tét" and "Bánh Chưng" are types of "Must Have" cake on Ancestor altar and each of meal during Tet Holiday.
The Tet cake is cylindrical shape, made with sticky rice and filled with pork fat and mung beans seasoned with black pepper and shallots. It is wrapped in banana leaves (for Bánh Tét) and dong leaves (for Bánh Chưng). As a result, the sticky rice takes on a pale green color and a slightly leafy taste. Sometimes, in order to enhance the natural green of the sticky rice, Vietnamese people use pandanus leaf to create the organic color.
It is served with pickled scallions, vegetable pickles and fish sauce. After cooking, the leaves are removed and the cake is sliced into wheel-shaped servings. It may also be sliced and fried to a delicious chewy crispness.
Giò chả (or Giò Thủ)
Seeds of pumpkin, watermelon, and sunflower. Source: internet.
Other popular dishes on the traditional New Year menu include 'gio cha' (Vietnamese sausage made from ground pork, pureed beef or a mixture of pork, pork ears, pork nose and wood ear mushroom) and' nem '(spring rolls with ground meat and diced vegetables). Besides cooked dishes, you should not miss roasted watermelon seeds, dried nuts and candied fruit. They are some kind of snack that the homeowner serve the guests when they visit.
So, joining a Vietnamese culinary tour and enjoying delicious traditional dishes is the most perfect activity during the Tet holiday.
2. Visiting Tet Market
What do you think about wandering around Tet markets? You not only feel the vibrant atmosphere but also can capture tons of imaging photos at these places.
When Tet comes, thousands of Vietnamese outdoor markets selling decorations, clothes, flowers, potted plants, and many other things for the Lunar New Year which are opened to meet the needs of consumers. Many people come here to buy New Year's essentials such as apricot flowers, kumquat, various flowers, colorful decorations and red items.
In Ho Chi Minh City, you should go to some big districts to visit the flower market, Tet festival, 'Cholon' as well as China Town to enjoy fully unique experience in here.
3. Visiting the Buddhist temple
In Vietnam, Tet is a busy time for Buddhists. Paying a visit to pagodas or temples is a part of their spiritual life. Not only Buddhists but also a large of Vietnamese people believe that the Lunar New Year is the most sacred time to pay homage to their ancestors and gods.
At the beginning of the holiday, many devotees visit the Buddhist temple to offer incense and pray for blessings, health, happiness, health and fortune next year. That is the reason why during Tet, all of pagodas and temples are so crowded.
If you are curious about Vietnamese religion, visiting the Buddhist temple is unforgettable activity. In the early days of Tet, these places are perfect for calming yourself and relieving life's worries.
Above all, a trip to Vietnam during the Tet holiday will delight you with the interesting scenery with the New Year vibe and open your mind about Vietnamese culture.
4. Giving new year greeting cards and lucky money red envelopes (Red Packets)
Grandparents are giving children lucky money. Source: Thanh nien.
Exchanging lucky money on the occasion of Lunar New Year is a long tradition that people will give each others new year wishes and good fortune for a next year. Typically, people exchange new year wishes, children send the greetings to grandparents, parents and relatives and receive lucky money. Red envelopes are cash gifts given by senior family members for their teen relationships, from a few dollars to sizeable sums. It is believed that money placed inside an ornate red envelope can bring good luck to the recipient.
Why don’t you give your next of kin with the best wishes as same as Vietnamese people?
5. Prepare traditional dishes: Bánh Chưng/Bánh Tét; Thịt kho tàu
On the days to come, each family cooks traditional dishes served during Tet. Preparing for these dishes is quite rich, especially traditional Vietnamese cakes - Bánh Chưng-Bánh Tét. Family members often take turns to watch the night fire, telling each other stories about Tet over the years.
Thịt kho tàu. Source: Maggi.
Thịt kho tàu is a combination of pork belly and boiled eggs, slowly braised in coconut juice. This dish is often cooked 1-2 days in advance of Tet Eve and will be used for around 1 week in the holiday.
Thịt kho tàu is one kind of the “lazy dish”. It is a joke but it is quite true for Vietnamese family because people prepare this one to minimize the time for cooking during the holiday in which we are so busy with other interesting activities. Working hard all year round just to come back to hometown in Tet, so it should be precious time to be with all family members.
6. Visiting prominent attractions in Saigon
Although visiting famous landmarks in Saigon on Tet seems no differently from visiting on other occasions of the year, however, the most distinction during Tet that you can admire several unique decorations with New year concept. Moreover, there are a large number of people coming back to their hometowns to celebrate Tet, so Saigon's roads are therefore less claustrophobic.
You will be able to record memorable moments with a plenty of jubilant photos here.
Some of recommended points for you are Chinatown, Shopping Malls, Bui Vien Walking Street and to name but the few.
If you plan to visit some place, please check for it’s availability before coming.
7. Fully joining in festival atmosphere in Nguyen Hue Walking Street
This is one of the best attractions to visit during Lunar New Year that decorate with a lot of flowers shaped many different image regarding Year of Rat imagines.
The main materials of whole the street are kinds of flowers that reflect not only the significant beauty in Tet Holiday but also Vietnamese belief and culture
A special tip for you is that you should visit in the early of New Year to capture the best photos with the freshest flowers.
The parks in Saigon are where to organize a lot of activities on Lunar New Year such as folk and modern games, music and dance shows, variety shows and traditional food to experience the traditional Tet of Vietnamese people… that attracts many tourists to visit and have fun. Some prominent parks on Tet holiday in Saigon such as Dam Sen Cultural Park, Thao Cam Vien, Tao Dan, Le Van Tam…
Nguyen Van Binh book street is also a famouse place for Vietnamese people in the time.
This is a place to go during Tet in Saigon that has the ancient and cozy space, Nguyen Van Binh Book Street welcomes spring by a special way that is "Spring Travel with Books" Festival - with more than 10 times. In addition to displaying more than 65,000 titles, the festival also has some features exhibitions and other unique exhibits. It is not only an attraction for book lovers, but also a fascinating place for foreign tourists to visit Tet holiday.
9. Visit Black Virgin mountain (Núi Bà Đen) from the 4th day of the new year.
Black virgin mountain is the highest mountain in the South of Vietnam (966m). The local people here believe the land is sacred and blessed by Lady Black virgin. Evey year on the 4th day, people have the Lady ceremony and welcome thousands of Vietnamese come and visit. All of them want to wish for the best luck for a new year. During your visit, you will learn more about the Buddism in Vietnam, Mother worship religions, and belief of the local here. You can join Tiger team on Black virgin mountain tour to experience the event by your own eyes.
10. Visiting locals’ house
This will be an unforgettable activities of yours Vietnamese trip on the occasion of Tet Holiday. You are not a foreign tourist or a customer, you are a guest of vietnamese locals. Paying a visit to indigenous home, you will be served many traditional cuisines as well as understand more about Vietnamese culture throughout hearing lots of fascinating stories by homeowners.
This year - the year of the mouse 2020, the lunar new year will fall into January 25, 26, 27 so prepare for the different atmosphere in Saigon. Tet Holiday is a special occasion which you can join in harmoniously the vibrant festival as well as the happiness of Vietnamese locals. A couple of lucky colors in Vietnam are red and yellow, which may explain why these colors can be seen everywhere in Lunar New Year. Followed by the concept of the ancients, red symbolizes luck and fortune, that suits for the atmosphere of reunion and sacredness, whereas yellow symbolizes wealth and prosperity.
We believe that 10 things above will give you more options to enjoy your excursion on the Lunar New Year.