Different from other tribal groups in the plain regions of Vietnam, the Hmong in Moc Chau – Son La celebrates Tet Holiday from the first day of December of the lunar year and their celebration often lasts for up to one month. The Hmong’s manners and customs during Tet holiday also bear some differences compared to how other groups of ethnic people rejoice this best time of the year in Vietnam.
The Hmong takes the preparation for Tet holiday very seriously. From the 26th of November of the lunar year (around January of the western/solar year), the Hmong will take a break from work, begin to go shopping and get ready for this traditional holiday. Everyone in a family has their own duties. Women rush to finish sewing clothes so that their family members will have new outfits to wear on Tet holiday, as new outfits bring about good luck. Men go shopping for essential items to stock up since no stalls will be opened on holiday. They also have to catch chickens and pigs from their own hen-coops and pigsties to prepare food beforehand for their families and also for visitors on these days of the year.
On the last day of the lunar year, the one last important thing to do is to clean the house and decorate the altar. The Hmong will choose a green bamboo twig and tie 3 threads in 3 different colors of red, yellow and green around it together with an incense stick. The Hmong believes that this exceptional “broomstick” will chase the sickness and bad luck from the previous year away and bring good luck to the family in the new year. After finishing cleaning the house, the master of the family will begin to decorate the altar. All the tools that the family members have been using throughout the year will be cleaned and put on the altar, and they shall not be used until 10 days after Tet holiday. The Hmong sees this resting time as a way of paying tribute to these tools since they have helped them make a living for the rest of the year.
Another special thing about Hmong’s customs on Tet holiday is the banquet offered to the ancestors. With the Vietnamese living in the plain regions, the square sticky rice cake is indispensible to every banquet, but with the Hmong people, the typical banquet must include round rice cakes. The round shape of this cake represents the sun and the moon – the origins of human as well as of everything else on earth. The first six pairs of round rice cakes stand for 12 months of a year as well as their wishes for fruitful crops in the next working year.
With the Vietnamese people in the plain areas in general and the ethnic people in mountainous ares in particular, Tet holiday is the most important time of the year as they can truly relax and spend quality time with their loved ones. Despite the fast pace of modernization, there is no doubt in saying that Tet holiday is something that will never be faded and forgotten by any Vietnames people.