1. “Banh Chung”
Banh Chung (Steamed cake) is a traditional cake of which legend teaches Vietnamese to be grateful to the Earth and the Sky. Every ingredient to make Banh Chung beautifully represents love and special thanks to Nature (land, water, animals) that always protects and feeds us, such as Dong leaves (big-scaled, green ones to wrap things inside), glutinous rice, mung bean, fatty pork, black pepper, salt or fish sauce.
The popular image of traditional Tet embedded in our textbooks, stories, talks is the gathering of the whole family. Each member, from the little child to the most elderly, has a certain task to do. The most sacred moments are when all the Banh Chung are ready to be boiled in a big pot by the fire for about 18 hours. The smell of boiling Dong leaves, the transformation and combination process of land and water-related ingredients, the storytelling around the warmth of the flame… all those moments make Banh Chung we Vietnamese never forget.
In modern life, there has been less and less tendency to make Banh Chung at home, since people are always busy and service is available. Moreover, now we can eat Banh Chung throughout the year, unlike hard times in the past when you can only afford rice and fatty pork during Tet.
2. Tet Bath
We believe that the last bath on 31 December afternoon of the Lunar Calendar helps wash bodies and souls, getting ready for good luck in New Year. Different kinds of herb are collected and boiled in water, the most popular herb being coriander. Tet Bath is usually taken before the Last Meal (Tat Nien) of the year.
3. Tet Special Dishes
Tet is special to Vietnamese not only for family gatherings, but also for the time to remind people of forefathers in other lifes. We prepare the most fresh, delicious traditional dishes, such as Gio, pig-skin or young-bamboo soup, boiled chicken, Nem, Banh Chung, stir-fried vegetables to worship ancestors first, then enjoy the last meal in a year with family and close friends.
4. “Li xi”
This is the way to express New Year’s wishes, usually by elders to kids. People give a small red envelope with a new sheet of money enclosed to congratulate the receiver for another year. We believe that this tradition symbolizes the good luck for prosperity in the coming year.
5. Things to avoid doing
We avoid sweeping the floor, wearing back-and-white, weeping and saying inauspicious things, breaking stuff or borrowing money on the first 3 days of Lunar New Year.
Happy Great Year of Dragon!!