How the Vietnamese Celebrate Lunar New Year

About the author: Mindy Sun is a graduate student from Vietnam studying Business Administration. She is a Global Leader with ISSS and also serves on the iSucceed Mentorship Program Advisory Board.

I have been living and studying in the U.S. as an international student since 2014. No matter how long I’ve lived in the U.S., one thing I really miss around this time each year is Tết Nguyên Đán, which you may know as Lunar New Year. I am writing this blog post to share how we usually celebrate this most special occasion of the year to hopefully bring a piece of Vietnamese culture to all of you in the U.S., who may also be international students living away from home. The following is a guide to how Vietnamese celebrate Tết. Enjoy!


2 days before Tết: Rewarding yourself with shopping. Most clothing items are on sale by the end of the year, so this will be an ideal time for you to hunt for the best prices. My parents also use these days to buy flowers and fruits to prepare for god-worshiping on Lunar New Year Eve.

1 day before Tết: Filling your day with fortune. Together, everyone will clean and decorate around the house, and cook big pots of food to serve to guests over the next few days. In Southern Vietnam, the yellow apricot blossom is the Tết icon, while in Northern Vietnam, it is the peach blossom.


On Lunar New Year Eve: Blessing and god-worshiping. We will prepare mâm ngũ quả (five-fruit tray) to worship god and ancestors. The traditional tray includes custard apple, fig, coconut, papaya, mango; each represents a wish for a coming year of peace and prosperity. The moment the firework starts, we will light up the candles, face the altar, place our hands together, close our eyes, reflect on our past year, and think of how we want to welcome the new year.


1st day of Tết: Visiting relatives to send beautiful wishes. The best wishes to send are about health and happiness. As long as you are still unmarried, the older family members will hand you a red envelope filled with lucky money along with the wishes for your success in return. (Isn’t that so sweet?!)) On the first day, remember to dress pretty, talk pretty,act pretty, for it will bring you luck for the whole year. You can never go wrong showing up in bright colors of Áo Dài (traditional Vietnamese dress).


2nd day of Tết: Enjoying delicious meals. Some traditional dishes are bánh chưng (sticky rice cake), thịt kho nước dừa (braised meat with coconut water), xôi gấc (orange sticky rice), and giò thủ (Northern spring rolls). Lunar New Year is all about satisfying your belly with many, many yummy dishes while being surrounded by your dearest people.

3rd day of Tết: Gifting your friends and family. Vietnamese believe that individual success cannot be done without the support of the bigger community. Gifting is an opportunity for us to thank those who have been on our side through difficult times and also to send good wishes to more people.


Besides Vietnam, a handful of other countries also celebrate Lunar New Year. Below are some common Lunar New Year greetings for you to impress your international friends, classmates, or roommates.



An khang thịnh vượng (ang khang tinh vuoung): “Security, good health, and prosperity”

Vạn sự như ý (vant-su-nhu-ee) “May all your wishes go according to your will”


恭喜发财 (Gōng xǐ fā cái): “Happiness and Prosperity”

大吉大利 (Dà jí dà lì): “Lots of luck and profits”


새해복많이받으세요(sae hae bok manhi bah doo seh yo): “Please receive lots of luck this New Year”

희망찬새해되세요 (hee mang chan sae hae dwe se yo): “May your New Year be filled with hope”

Finally, check out our IG @sjsuinternational for a Lunar New Year to-do list and FOLLOW US for constant updates about the vibrant life of international students at SJSU.

Wish you all a blessed Lunar New Year!

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