Tet meets Valentine’s in Vietnam


Burning incense and ancestor worship, or roses and chocolates? That’s the choice for many Vietnamese when the annual tradition of Tet, the Lunar New Year, clashes with Valentine’s Day on Sunday.


For many Vietnamese, however, modernity will have to take a back seat while Tet, a family-focused festival, takes priority, but some say they will still try to make time for a romantic interlude.

“We can delay it until another day, after Tet,” says Bui Thi Thuy, 25, an events manager in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s southern commercial metropolis and its most Westernised city.

Thuy and her boyfriend, Le Thanh Truc, 30, have only been together for a few weeks, so Valentine’s Day is “not as important” as Tet, said Truc.

“My friends said they’ll spend the day with their families, then in the evening they can spend time with their lover,” said Luong Ngoc Phuong Chi, 19, a student and customer service worker at a shopping centre.

In the past, Vietnamese “didn’t show their feelings as strongly as now”, said Luu Dinh Tinh, 44, an electronics retailer.

He said he would spend Tet with his extended family but would also buy his wife a Valentine’s gift.

“Vietnamese are now more romantic,” Tinh said.

Vang My Lam, 25, a waitress, said some couples had booked tables for a Valentine’s meal.

“In the morning they’ll go to their family home for the celebration and then go out later. Tet is very important.”

Authorities have erected elaborate floral displays on Ho Chi Minh City’s main Nguyen Hue street to welcome Tet.

But in deference to Valentine’s Day there are also heart shapes made of flowers, the state Vietnam News reported.

Thu Van, 50, said she and her husband usually celebrate Valentine’s Day by dining out.

“It’s a Western tradition, but it’s a good tradition,” Van said of the day.

Although Tet will take precedence over their usual romantic dinner, Van said she was still expecting a token of affection from her husband.

“I love to get flowers, roses and chocolates,” she said. “He always has something to surprise me, a gift or flowers.”

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