One main characteristic of Vietnamese philosophy is to establish a relationship between Nature and Human Existence because they are interrelated and the result from this relationship is the very fragile notion of Happiness. Thus, man has to act and live in harmony with Nature, follow its normal course, so that nothing will obstruct the peaceful flow of life and happiness.
The consecutive succession of seasons is a normal phenomenon of Nature and very important fact to the Vietnamese people who are predominantly farmers. According to ancient beliefs, the end of Winter followed by Spring mark a new beginning, the re-birth of Nature and all living creatures. Consequently, to be in harmony with Nature, one should re-create himself completely, rejuvenate the old tired self and get rid of sad and bad thoughts. All debts should be paid so that one can start all fresh. One should have only good and compassionate feelings, use kind words even to the worst enemies. That way, one can contribute to the harmony of Nature and promote his own happiness and the happiness of others. One unkind word, an act of aggression or hurtful gesture is not only disrespectful but also in contradiction with the law of Nature and will result in bad luck for the individual.
This common superstition leads to the belief that what you do during the first days of Tet will affect, in a mysterious way, the future of the coming new year. Consequently, the first visitor to a home will bring good fortune or bad luck to the family depending on how lucky or unlucky, happy or unhappy, healthy of not the individual may be. In order not to be subject to uncertainty, people select a “good”individual and invite him to visit, hoping that this individual will bring good fortune and luck to the family for the whole year.
So, what Tet means to the Vietnamese people?
TET is the passionate cry of all Vietnamese –during the re-birth of Nature — reasserting its belief in Life and the ultimate longing for Happiness.
TET is also the glorification of the Family and the Cult of the Ancestors. During Tet, the whole family — grand parents, uncles, aunts, parents and children, family members working far away , all gather under the same roof and share meals under the watching eyes of the ancestors from the altar. The ancestors’ altar displayed with pictures of dead family members, is decorated with flowers, fruits and bountiful foods. Incenses, candles are lighted all day filling the house with wonderful aromas.
TET is not only a celebration of the livings, but also a celebration of the dead. For three days, the ancestors participate fully in the daily life of the family. The day before Tet, a family meal is offered to the ancestors to invite them to come home. For the next two days, meals are offered twice. On The third day, a big meal is prepared to bid farewell to the ancestors who return to the “other world”.
In conclusion, Tet is a time during which Vietnamese all over the world, rich and poor, young and old, from all walks of life rejuvenate themselves, leaving behind sorrow and worries to share a common feeling of love for the Family and Hope for a better future. The most wonderful thing is that this event will happen each year, and this way, every year all Vietnamese can live again this beautiful and happy tradition.