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20 years: The changing face of Vietnam’s Tet holiday

Monday, February 01, 2016, 09:24 GMT+7
20 years: The changing face of Vietnam’s Tet holiday
A woman buys confectionery for Tet at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City.

While Tet, or the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, retains its significance among local people, a global market research consultancy has discovered changes in the way the holiday is celebrated when compared to twenty years ago.

The Lunar New Year falls on February 8, but Vietnamese started preparing for the country’s biggest holiday months in advance.

Ninety-three percent of respondents in TNS’s Consumer Pulse study released on January 29 said that “Tet is a time to pay respects to ancestors,” indicating that the event “still carries a lot of traditional and family significance for Vietnamese.”

The quarterly survey, the first of its kind to be conducted this year by TNS, discovered that Tet traditions are also still widely practiced, with 93 percent reporting that they clean up the house before the Lunar New Year.

The same percentage also try to ensure the first day of the new year is perfect, since they believe it will determine one’s luck for the whole year, according to the report.

Visiting pagodas is also considered an important event, and so is visiting one’s hometown.

The report noted, however, that Tet holiday has changed over the years, especially compared to two decades ago, when TNS was founded.

Among the differences is food preparation, according to the study.

While in the past people prepared most of the traditional foods themselves, today, most Tet treats, including banh chung and banh tet, are more likely to be purchased due to people’s increasingly busy lifestyle and a desire to enjoy more of the holiday, the survey finds.

Banh chung and banh tet are traditional Vietnamese rice cakes made for Tet, and are considered indispensable delicacies of the holiday.

Another reported difference is that while in 1996 nearly all businesses closed while people enjoyed family reunions at home, many shops today remain open while family and friends gather.

There is also evidence to suggest that the feelings and traditional significance of the holiday are changing, according to TNS.

“In our study 33 percent said they feel tired of cooking and preparing so much food, or drinking too much during the holiday,” the report says.

“Additionally, 32 percent of respondents felt that ‘Tet is no longer an important occasion’.”

Providing further evidence, survey respondents were asked about whether they should be home, or go out to enjoy Tet.

Thirty-four percent of those polled said they agreed that they need to be at home during Tet, while 39 percent said they should go out to enjoy the Tet spirit.

Traveling for pleasure is indeed a strong desire amongst Vietnamese, according to the survey.

Amongst destinations, central Vietnam and the resort city of Nha Trang in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa are the most desired, followed by Da Lat in the Central Highlands, the central city of Da Nang, and Sa Pa, a famed tourist town in the mountainous northern province of Lao Cai.

In the meantime, one in four Vietnamese wants to travel overseas, where Thailand, Singapore, and Japan are among the most desired destinations. 

However, even the top “out-of-home activities” remain family focused such as family gatherings, visiting relatives, or meeting friends, according to the report.

“While things may be changing, today Tet still remains a highly family focused and traditional holiday,” it concludes.

The Consumer Pulse study, focusing on consumer spending patterns, consumer confidence, and lifestyle and attitudes, is done quarterly within Vietnam.

It surveys respondents in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to discover their feelings and outlooks toward the Vietnamese economy.

With Tet falling within the first quarter, the latest Consumer Pulse survey also featured several questions to better understand how Vietnamese are planning to spend for the holiday.

Fifty-seven of the consumers polled say they will spend VND5.5 million (US$246) to VND15 million ($670) for themselves and the household, mostly on food, clothing, and home improvements, in preparation for Tet.

The study also revealed that Vietnam’s consumer confidence is at its highest level since 2008, topping 90 percent in 2016, a rebound from the 2012-2014 slump and a great improvement from 2015.

TNS is part of Kantar, the data investment management division of WPP and one of the world's largest insight, information and consultancy groups.

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