In the spiritual life of ancient people, Vietnamese Tet holiday symbolizes the beginning of a New Year, the hope of a wealthy and happy life. Even in poor families, they try their best to prepare for a typical feast to memorize their grandparents and ancestors, and to pray for best wishes, good health, happiness, and luck. Tet is one of the most important Vietnam holidays. As being one of the most meaningful and important events in this country, local people often prepare very carefully, about 1 month in advance for the feasts during this holiday. Yet, in each part of Vietnam, locals present their attention to the most crucial holiday in different ways. Only in Vietnam travel during this time can tourists understand and explore more local long-lasting traditions and unmatched cultural identity.
In Northern Vietnam, the feast of Tet holiday is characterized by exquisite Northern traditional dishes. Northerners' traditional New Year feast is diverse, and it mostly focuses on appearance and decorations to present a full-color tray with the hope of luck for their family. Though time has changed, according to Vietnam culture, Tet holiday's feast in Northern Vietnam in general and in Hanoi in particular keeps all traditional features of the ethnicity. The feast of Northerners has four main bowls and four main plates which symbolize four seasons and four directions (east, west, south, and north). The bigger feast has six bowls and six plates or eight bowls and eight plates, representing fortunes. There are some big feasts arranged in two or three layers. Ancient Vietnamese New Year feast used to be laid on wooden or bronze tray. Four main dishes in the New Year feast include a bowl of pork stewed with bamboo shoot, a bowl fried pork skin stew, a bowl of vermicelli/glass noodle and a bowl of mushroom and sausage.
Four plates in the feast comprise a plate of boiled chicken, a plate of boiled pork, a plate of Giò lụa (Vietnamese pork rolls), and a plate of Chả quế (cinnamon pork rolls). Meanwhile, there are many feasts presented with other dishes such as Thịt nấu đông (jelly pork) - a typical dish of northern Tet feast, braised fish, and a plate of vegetables. The dessert has fried jams of kumquat, ginger... all are presented in small plates to make the feast more diverse and beautiful. Besides, the feast of Northern Vietnamese includes Chung Cake, red sticky rice, and pickles. Todays, as the fast-pace life, the Tet holiday feast is not full of dishes as in the past. In each family, they have different ways to celebrate the feast. However, the feast is presented with typical dishes as Chung Cake, pickles, pork rolls, vegetables, bamboo shoot soup, glass noodles soups... They are among the best dishes of traditional Vietnam cuisine.
Meanwhile, the Tet holiday feast in Central part of Vietnam is portrayed by both square Chung Cake and Tét Cake (another kind of Chung Cake in Central and Southern Vietnam) and other dishes of Vietnam traditional cuisine. Dispite the development of economy and society in Central Vietnam, the traditional customs of Tet holiday in the region remains typical features. Vietnamese people in Central region present the feast with Tet Cake, Nem chua (fermented pork roll), Thịt giấm (fermented pork), pork roll, jelly pork, Hue pork rolls... The long-lasting traditional has existed for generations. This is the combination between ancestors and younger generations. It is also a "message" connecting each people and their hometown and country.
If having a chance to visit Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) in Vietnam tours during the New Year time, tourists will explore many interesting differences between the northern and the southern parts through their traditional customs during Tet. Unlike feasts in Northern and Central Vietnam, that of Southern Vietnam is more diverse. Perhaps, it is because of differences in climate and lifestyle. The feast of southerners expresses a wealthier life in the New Year. All is reflected through the Mâm Ngũ Quả (a plate of 5 kinds of fruit) including custard apple, coconut, papaya, mango, and kumquat; some pickle dishes, and time-honored dishes… all are favored by the locals. Yet, two dishes of Vietnamese caramelized braised pork and soup of bitter melon stuffed with pork are indispensable ones during New Year days. According to the opinion of Southerners, bitter melon in the feast expresses that all difficulties will end to welcome a happier and better New Year. In other words, this dish is very healthy, which makes people less bored with too-much-protein dishes during Tet holiday.
When spring comes, whether in Northern, Central or in Southern parts of Vietnam with different climate or food, they all have great significance to remember about the origin and ancestry. Family members gather, enjoy delicious dishes, welcome the New Year, and wish for a prosperous, happier and better life in the New Year.