Story: Dr. Tran Tan Vinh
Photo: Lai Dien Dam, Dan Toan, An Thanh Dat, Le Van

Spring is a time of renewal. Trees grow and flowers burst into radiant bloom. Each region of Vietnam has its own iconic spring flowers. The North takes pride in its pink peach blossoms, the South in its yellow ochna flowers, and the Central Highlands in Bombax, coffee flowers and carpets of colourful wild flowers. In the springtime, people rest and recharge after a long year coping with worldly burdens. They leave their worries behind and look towards a brighter and better future. Our nation’s cultural heritage nourishes our needs for leisure pursuits and spirituality.

Cor ethnic people celebrate their Spring Festival

During the Tet holidays, Vietnamese people visit temples and pagodas to pray for a better life, peace and prosperity for their families and loved ones in the year to come. Fragrant flowers placed on Buddhist altars soothe our souls. People’s spiritual yearnings have resulted in festivals such as the Perfume Pagoda Festival, the Lady Warehouse Festival and the Holy Mother Festival.

Springtime in southern Vietnam

The Tet holidays are also spent visiting and bestowing good wishes. The first ritual is the dedication of incense to the ancestors and the departed. New Year’s incense carries more than a tribute to the past, but also requests the ancestors for patronage and shelter. During the first days of the New Year, clan temples and ancestral altars swirl with sacred incense smoke. The altars are adorned with fresh Five Fruit Trays presented to the departed to invite them to join their offspring at Tet. Everyone hopes to enjoy these days with their parents, grandparents, teachers, colleagues and friends.

In the past, the courtyards of titular temples and village schools were the most vibrant venues during Tet. Folk games drew everyone in the community and the Hut card game was especially popular. This is both a game and a singing genre beloved by elderly people. Ethnic people native to the Truong Son Mountains and the Central Highlands also celebrate Tet like the Kinh majority. Their villages are full of the sounds of gongs, xoan dances and tan tung da dắ dances. Their cultures’ vitality is evident in the sight of young men and women playing gongs by nêu trees.

Dragon dance

Many nationwide festivals are launched during the New Year, including the Field Down Festival of the Hmong and the Tay, the Lim Festival of quan họ singing in Bac Ninh province, and the Bauhinia Festival. These events allow people to come together and celebrate their cultural heritage.

The Tet holidays are an occasion for people especially youngsters – to travel to natural places. They visit waterfalls, mountains, forests, rivers, lakes and the ocean, recharging their souls with nature’s beauty.

Vietnam’s Tet is a celebration of our tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Despite the changing times, many age-old traditions survive. Tet celebrations must be protected and promoted to ensure that the true meaning of spring continues to enrich our mortal existence.