New year traditions of Vietnamese southerners

(VOVworld) – The arrival of spring is heralded by the pink color of peach flowers in the north and the yellow hue of apricot flowers in the south. Southerners have their own way to celebrate Tet, the traditional lunar new year festival.

Apricot flower

Whenever Tet approaches, southerners often return home from all parts of the country for family reunions. 15 days ahead of Tet, family members decorate their homes to welcome Tet celebrations, one of which is to worship the kitchen gods. Culture researcher Doan Trong Huy says: “Southerners will offer the kitchen gods a number of dishes including Che troi nuoc, sticky rice dumplings with caramel ginger syrup. This dessert is sweet, expressing their hope for everything to go smoothly in the new year.”

Southerners consider Tet an occasion to worship ancestors. Before Tet, they clean and decorate tombs to welcome their ancestors home to celebrate Tet. In the early morning of the last day of 12th lunar month, all family members gather to prepare for Tet. Women make the food while men prepare devotional items. Folklore culture researcher Truong Ngoc Tuong says: “For southerners, Tet is an occasion for eating, relaxing and enjoying. They dedicate the first 3 days of the new year for worshiping their ancestors. They think that the deceased can also enjoy Tet as the living do.”

In addition to an apricot branch, there is always a 5-fruit tray on the altar, which includes custard apple, watermelon, papaya, mango, and pineapple. According to southerners’ belief, these fruits express their wish for sufficiency. The Tet dishes are to show southerners’ gratitude to their ancestors as Pham Van Hung of Dong Nai province explains: “We celebrate Tet just like how our ancestors did. We welcome our ancestors home on the last day of the lunar year and offer them many dishes, which include meat, fish, and sticky rice cakes.”

Previously, southerners used to erect a high pole and cook sweet porridge. The pole is believed to chase away evil spirits while the porridge symbolizes cozy family reunion and a happy Tet. Although not many families erect the pole today, folklore culture researcher Truong Ngoc Tuong says it remains a good memory: “We often cook porridge on the last day of the year. Unlike the habit in the north to pick tree sprouts, we then go to water the trees and flowers in our garden.”

Southerners still practice most of their unique traditional Tet customs – habits that link the past and present.