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UW Alumni Tours

Ringing in the New Year in Vietnam

In January 2017, I was honored to join 23 fellow travelers as the UW Alumni Tours host for the program’s Journey Through Vietnam travel experience.

Vietnamese New Year, or Te’t, is considered the most important holiday and the biggest celebration in Vietnamese culture. Aligning with the lunar-based Vietnamese calendar, Te’t welcomes the new year and spring season, usually falling in January or February.  In 2017, it occurred on January 28 – one day into our trip.

As with many New Year observances throughout Asia, Te’t is a multi-day celebration strongly based around reuniting with family and celebrating New Year customs together. Traditional activities include cooking holiday foods and preparing special dishes, cleaning the house to welcome the positive energy of a new year, visiting temples and attending festivals.

Our tour group was lucky to be visiting Vietnam during this festive time, and we were able to see first-hand many of the customs and traditions exclusive to the Te’t holiday. Groups of large families bedecked in their best and most beautiful outfits visited temples, paying tribute to ancestors and receiving blessings. Children dressed in traditional outfits ran about with “lucky money” or red envelopes they had received from their elders. Nearly every household, storefront and restaurant entry way (including our hotel lobbies) were decorated with blooming kumquat trees (in the north/Hanoi); apricot blossoms (in the central/Da Nang and Hue); and peach blossoms (in the south/Saigon) to herald spring and symbolize the fruitfulness of prosperity and good health for the coming year. Those weren’t the only displays. Large public floral arrangements of bright flowers, mainly chrysanthemums and marigolds were everywhere, along with  brilliant red and gold signs with “Chuc Mung Nam Moi,” which is “Happy Wishes for the New Year!”

From the onset of the tour, we shared the road and the air with many Vietnamese folks traveling to their home of origin to reunite with their families. It was wonderful to exchange smiles and greet Vietnamese travelers and locals with, “Happy New Year!” And once Te’t was underway, there were far fewer crowds and motorists which allowed for speedier transportation and easier sight-seeing throughout the cities. We were welcomed cheerfully into homes, shops, villages and businesses alike. While some shops, markets and sights were closed, the many that were open were enjoyed in a less harried atmosphere with our tour director now better able to guide us at a pace that allowed for more thoughtful exploration and conversation.

I would imagine that “Journey Through Vietnam” is an amazing tour any time of the year (excluding the rainy season, of course) but if you can visit during T’et you’ll get to experience a very special part of this remarkable country’s culture.

Terri Hiroshima

Senior Director, Marketing & Communications
University of Washington Alumni Association

Hanoi

“Happy New Year” banner at the temple entrance

Hanoi

Child dressed for Tet

Hue

Street sign wishes passers by a happy New Year

Hue

Receiving blessings at Thien Mu Pagoda

Hanoi

Burning ceremonial money to welcome the New Year

It was wonderful to exchange smiles and greet Vietnamese travelers and locals with ‘Happy New Year!’