The Vietnamese New Year, commonly called Tet, is an exciting time in Vietnam. With similarities to the Chinese New Year, Tet celebrates the beginning of spring and a new year of the lunar calendar. Tet in Vietnam is a colorful swirl of festivities, including incense, decorations, dancing, gambling, superstitions, food, family and friends. Children can learn all about the Vietnamese New Year with interactive activities.
In Vietnam, plum blossoms are a symbol of the coming of spring. During Tet, homes and streets are filled with plum blossom branches. To recreate the lovely plum blossom, start with a sturdy piece of white paper. You or your child can paint brown branches, stemming out into different directions. Your child can choose the medium, either non-toxic paint or crepe paper, to make flowers with yellow circle centers and five semi-circle-shaped pink petals per blossom. Children can cover the branches with blossoms, and then decorate the home with their creations.
Birthday Celebration, Tet Style
In Vietnam, no one acknowledges their birthday on the day they were born. Due to the use of the lunar calendar, Tet is seen as a birthday for everyone. Plan a Tet birthday party for your preschooler and her friends. During Tet, children are given "Lucky Money," or li xi, as a birthday gift from friends and family. Recreate this by placing real or fake money in red envelopes to distribute to each child. Also, print out zodiac animals for the party children to decorate, and talk about how the zodiac traits reflect their personality.
The Dragon Parade is an integral part of the Vietnamese New Year. The dragon is said to frighten away evil spirits, thus ensuring good luck for the rest of the year. Make the dragon head with a large box and a small box or container glued on for the nose, with egg carton cups as eyes and nostrils. Children can use non-toxic paint and colorful paper to make a scary dragon face. One or two children can fit in the box, while colorful sheets or plastic tablecloths cover the rest of the children. Banging on pots, pans and drums while marching down the street will surely scare away any bad spirits.
Tet is also a time to honor ancestors who have passed away and reflect on family members who live far away. Poems, called cau doi, are written on long strips of red paper and hung on alters. Children can write poems about people who are not with them or places they used to live. Encourage kids to draw a picture of a place or person they miss along with a simple, thoughtful poem. Hang up the poems in your home during Tet in remembrance.
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