It’s Tet, so lets get married!

17 Jan

IT’S TET, SO LETS GET MARRIED!  The glitter and lights of Christmas have been pulled down overnight and replaced with yellow. Ho Chi Minh City is now dressed for the nation’s biggest holiday, Tet, which is a celebration of the new lunar new year. What I find the most interesting about Tet, though, is not the decorations. It’s the superstitions and customs associated, and they differ between north and south.

Tet decorations on Dong Khoi street in Ho Chi Minh City.

One of my colleagues was married last week and she couldn’t have been happier about the timing of her nuptials. Apparently many Vietnamese couples rush to tie the knot before the lunar year ends as it’s believed to be bad luck to begin anything new during the first few months of a year. Therefore it’s lucky to marry now and avoid a waiting period.

In the weeks approaching Tet, people clean out their homes to rid bad fortune, they paint their walls, buy new clothes and shoes and visit temples to pray for luck and good health. They endeavour to settle all debts.

The symbol of Tet, yellow flowers, for sale on the side of a busy road.On the actual day of Tet, first encounters are crucial. The first visitor to a home should be successful and happy, which is believed to bring good fortunes for the family for the year ahead. People never enter any house on the first day without being invited first. Usually the first visitor is a relative but some families invite special guests.

After the Tet holiday, it’s considered bad luck to spend money as it sets a bad precedence for spending behaviours for the year ahead. Instead, Vietnamese people are careful with their money and endeavour to receive more than they spend. This presents unique challenges in the business sphere, as companies prioritise activities with existing ventures and delay new projects.

For tourists and expats, it’s especially important to be aware of customs and superstitions associated with the holiday to avoid causing others bad fortune or, at the least, ill feelings. It’s also difficult to travel within Vietnam because the population shifts as people travel across provinces to meet with family members. I’ve taken the advice of long term expats and will jump across the border to Cambodia for the holiday. But not without first snapping a few vibrant photos of the lights and brides lining the streets in the city.

By Marissa Toohey

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