With the Vietnamese Lunar New Year just around the corner and starting this Saturday, Vietnam has clearly reached fever pitch with its preparations for Tết festivities. Streets in all major cities are jam-packed to the extreme and the shopping frenzy is in full swing now as the entire nation is stocking up before the country comes to a celebratory standstill.
Airports across Vietnam are also much busier than usual as millions travel to reunite with families, either within the country or from abroad. Saigon’s Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport expects to serve a daily average of 130,000 passengers during the peak period between 10 January and 8 February, and the authorities say they have taken a range of preparatory measures such as deploying extra personnel to regulate traffic and postponing road works around the airport. Travellers are strongly advised to take extra precautions all the same.
Landmarks and monuments everywhere are being festooned with flowers, lanterns and calligraphic work, with flowers and certain plants in particular seen as central to the festive spirit of Tết. Flower streets are opening up across the country, such as the famous Nguyễn Huệ in Hồ Chi Minh City – due for a grand opening at 7 p.m. this Wednesday. Peach flower, marumi kumquat and the so-called Mickey Mouse plant are the perennial favourites, and they decorate entrances, interiors and ancestral altars in most Vietnamese homes during this time.
Tết Nguyên Đán, or the Feast of the First Morning of the First Day, is the most important celebration in Vietnamese culture and it is considered to be the first day of spring. An occasion for family reunions, it is also a time when alcohol consumption goes up significantly and perhaps not surprisingly, this results in more road accidents recorded during Tết than at any other time of the year.
There has been talk in recent years of moving Tết to combine it with the New Year of the Gregorian calendar – a move that would save the country a lot of money but also cut the number of national holidays and increase overall productivity. It’s not going to happen this year though, so chúc mừng năm mới everyone!