Tet Nguyen Dan- the biggest festival of the year- plays an extremely essential role in Vietnamese’s beliefs and culture. Among many complicated religious rituals performed in this occasion, “xong dat” (first visit to a home in a year) is believed to decide the fortune of the host for the whole year.
Being the first visitor is not easy
Being invited to be the first guest of the year is both an honor and a challenging responsibility to anyone. The best time for “xong dat” is from the midnight of New Year’s Eve until the morning of the first day of Lunar Calendar’s New Year. However, the host and the guest normally come into an agreement in advance about the time deemed most suitable for the host’s zodiac sign.
A successful and humorous gentleman, smiling happily, giving wishes is believed to bring the lucky new year to every member in the house. Before coming to the host’s home, the guest is expected to spend time visiting pagodas or temples praying for the fortune, health and achievement for the upcoming New Year. Afterward, he can bring some buds, tree branches with fruits or a bottle of wine, which stand for vitality and wealth as gifts for the host. He can also give some lucky money wrapped in red envelope for small children, in the hope for health and wisdom.
Does it sound fun and easy? Definitely not if you know that you are likely to be responsible for the family’s whole year luckiness. Of course, no one blames you for their bad luck, yet they may not choose you as the first visitor for the next year.
All hosts are nice at the time of Xong dat?
The answer is yes. Showing the generous hospitality is essential for the host in preparation for the first visit of the year. To welcome the guest visiting the house, a small party with some simple Tet’s food such as “banh chung”- sticky rice cake or sweet preserved fruits, and rice wine is considered indispensable.
Moreover, the host also needs to wish the guest all the best for the New Year and gives him some lucky money in return. In the southern of Vietnam, the host puts a small bucket of water and a branch of apricot blossom so that the guest can splash the water and scatter the flower on the way leading to the house. Water and apricot blossom’s petals symbolize “multiplying the luck”, according to Vietnamese’s beliefs.
Visitor’s difficult task with many taboos
When entering Vietnamese’s house for the first time of the year, a visitor is required to remember the taboos as well. The guest should wear the bright clothes that appropriate with the occasion, and black and white combined is definitely unacceptable, since they are mourning colors. People all avoid getting angry and saying words relating to unfortunate topics like death, accident, failure or breaking up. Normally, girls and women are not selected to be the first visitors, especially if she is pregnant or just gave birth. The guest is expected to be a man who has an open personality and achieved much success the previous year.
Understanding the significance of “xong dat” in Vietnamese’s belief, on the first day of New Year, before paying a visit to friends or relatives’ house, people often call to ask whether the hosts have welcomed them as the first visitor or not, as being an unwilling guest may make both the visitor and the host confused and feel inconvenient.
* Cartoons adapted from An Ninh Thu Do online newspaper: http://www.anninhthudo.vn