Linguistic Richness and Idioms of Lunar New Year: Vietnam Edition

If you find yourself in Vietnam for the first time around February 10th this year, you’ll be absolutely astounded by the festivities taking place.

This is when the country begins its celebrations of Tết or the Lunar New Year.

If you’d like to dive deeper into this culturally significant event and find out how to celebrate it with politeness and courtesy, keep reading below.

Vietnam New Year (Tết): What is it?

Vietnam’s New Year starts on February 10 in 2024. It not only marks the start of the new year, it’s also the marking of the beginning of spring in North Vietnam. Many years ago, at the start of this celebration, it also marked the time for new cycles of wet rice cultivation.

Despite this being a week-long festival, preparations begin in advance as everyone gets ready for one of the biggest and most-loved celebrations in the country. That’s why the transportation network is often quite congested at this time of the year—everyone is trying to go back home and be with their families. This is a time when family members travel far and wide to reunite with their loved ones across the country and is when everyone wishes health, luck, and prosperity to everyone that comes their way.

How is it celebrated?

Celebrating Vietnam’s New Year is a joyous occasion for everyone. It is a time of cleaning one’s home and even vehicles and motorcycles to get ready for the guests coming and to sweep up the unpleasant things from the previous year. Also, people put in more effort than usual to look their best for their loved ones with new haircuts and new outfits, among other things.

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It’s also a time when peach or kumquat blossoms are put up in a home in a special place, inviting the freshness of spring and the new year. It’s also popular to put up lanterns in the form of fish, coins, and other shapes.

During this time, gifts are also exchanged. For example, elders give young people red envelopes with money as a gesture of wishing them luck and prosperity for the year ahead. Although the amount may be humble in some homes and more generous in others, it’s not really the amount that matters but more the gesture from an elderly person wishing a young one wonderful things. In addition to this, when a person grows to an age where they start handing out red envelopes instead of receiving them, it is almost like a rite of passage for them to become an adult.

Another way in which Vietnam’s New Year is celebrated is with the amazing foods that are prepared. Some of the most prominent dishes you may encounter while in Vietnam during this festive period include:

  • Candied fruits
  • Fried spring rolls
  • Sticky rice cakes
  • Boiled chicken
  • Caramelized pork
  • Bitter melon soup
  • Chicken salad
  • And more

Overall, the meals symbolize the passing of hardship and the welcoming of a new year filled with new hope and opportunities.

Different ways of wishing a Happy New Year in Vietnam

When celebrating Vietnam’s New Year, visitors will often hear the words Chúc Mừng Năm Mới”, which means Happy New Year.

However, there are many other ways in which you can express your good wishes during this special time such as:

  • Chuc nam moi nhieu suc khoe (May you be healthy and happy)
  • Chuc gia dinh an khang thinh vuong (May you and your family be prosperous)
  • Chuc nam moi van su nhu y (May all your dreams come true)
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Of course, as a culture of honorifics, it’s essential to get the greetings right for one’s elders to avoid offending and to send out warm good wishes to them.

Here are a few greetings that you should consider remembering and using with different groups of people:

Vietnamese New Year wishes for elders

  • Chuc ong ba song lau tram tuoi (May you live a hundred years)
  • Chuc ong ba phuc nhu dong hai, tho ty nam son (Hope you have as much luck as the sea water and live as long as the bamboo tree)
  • Chuc ong ba nam moi bon mua manh khoe, quanh nam sung tuc an vui (Wish you a new year with good health, affluence, peace, and happiness all year long)
  • Chuc ong ba suc khoe nhieu nhieu, con chau day dan, dau hien chau thao (Wish you a lot of health, kids, and grandkids)

Vietnamese New Year wishes for children

  • Hay an chong lon (Hope you eat much and grow fast)
  • Hoc hanh tan toi (Hope you make good progress in school)
  • Cong thanh danh toai (Hope you gain academic achievements)
  • Chuc con nam moi tran ngap tieng cuoi va tinh yeu thuong (Hope your new year is filled with laughter and love)

Vietnamese New Year wishes for friends
Linguistic Richness and Idioms of Lunar New Year: Vietnam Edition

  • Tien vao nhu nuoc (Hope you get lots of money)
  • Hanh phuc dong day (Wish you an abundance of happiness)
  • Van su nhu y (May everything go your way)
  • May man binh an (Wish you luck and peace)

Vietnamese New Year wishes for colleagues

  • Chuc ban nam moi suc khoe, hanh phuc va thanh cong (Wish you health, happiness, and success)
  • Chuc ban nam moi an khang thinh vuong, van su nhu y (Wish you a new year with prosperity, peace, and everything as expected)
  • Chuc ban nam moi sung tuc, binh an (Wish you a new year full of affluence and peace)
  • Nam moi thang quan tien chuc (Hope you will get promoted in the new year)
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Celebrating Vietnam’s New Year is not a one-day event that’s over before you know it. It’s a week-long celebration where preparations begin far in advance as everyone looks forward to the retreat of the old and the entry of the new.

Wishes expressed during this time are often about health, luck, and prosperity, depending on the person being addressed. And with the colors and wonderful aromas from the delicious foods being cooked up, you’ll find yourself in a fairytale land that’s absolutely blossomed with excitement.

So, if you’re in Vietnam on the 10th of February and the week that follows, be sure to immerse yourself in the festivities and be sure to wish the people who make Vietnam’s New Year so special in an appropriate and polite way.