Photo credit: Lynn @ VietnamDaily
For 2023, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year (aka Tết) occurs on January 22nd. It ushers in the Year of the Cat.
To wish a Vietnamese person a happy new year, the common refrain is Chúc mừng năm mới! It literally translates as “Wish happy year new!” You can say it during the Gregorian New Year or the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
- Wish – Chúc, like chook? with an up-tone.
- Happy – mừng, like moong with a down-tone.
- Year – năm.
- New – mới, like moi? with an up-tone.
Because Vietnamese is a tonal language, the best way to mimic the up-tones and down-tones of the expression is to try and memorize it like a melody.
Chúc mừng – “Congratulations!” in Vietnamese
Chúc mừng! is also useful to congratulate someone in Vietnamese in any situation outside of the New Years.
You can say Chúc mừng to a Vietnamese person after they accomplish something important like: get engaged, have a baby, win a big client, win a game, achieve a personal goal, and more.
Chinese New Year – A Serious Faux Pas in Vietnam
Unless you want to annoy a Vietnamese person, you should never say “Happy Chinese New Year” to a group of Asian people, especially if there is a Vietnamese among them. Instead, say “Happy Lunar New Year”, or “Chúc mừng năm mới” if they are mostly Vietnamese.
Westerners often mistakenly refer to the “Chinese New Year”, due to the predominance of mainland-Chinese immigrants in Western countries, but also due to a deliberate Chinese narrative of cultural hegemony and ownership of everything that was once Sino-derived. North Vietnamese culture has inherited a lot from the ancient Chinese, but modern Vietnam is very distinct from China, and Vietnamese consider China with wariness and caution.
There is a common origin to the Lunar Calendars in China, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, and other Asian cultures, which are used strictly for religious ceremonies and holidays, but not for modern secular activities like work and business. The Lunar calendar has 12 months that follow the 28-day procession of the moon, leading to a misalignment between the 365.25 day Gregorian calendar.
Vietnamese New Year – Fun Things To Do
If you are in Vietnam during Tết and you don’t have family members there, then the best thing to do is just relax on a beach and don’t expect anything exciting, or find some Expats and roam the empty streets of big towns.
Tết is a very family-centric holiday, somewhat like Christmas in Canada or the USA, and is not a time for huge public parties like New Year’s Eve in the West.
Worse, most businesses and government services shut-down completely during the three-to-four day period starting on Tết. So, make sure you stock-up on food and petrol and other necessities — don’t expect anyone to help or serve you during that time! Furthermore, the week prior to Tết is incredibly busy, so don’t travel during that time. Plan ahead!
Learn all about the Vietnamese New Year in our dedicate post on Tết, including topics like themes, myths, gift-ideas, and things to do.
Learn & See More about Tết
See our dedicated post on Everything you need to know about Tết and see our images of the New Year’s market in Hanoi.