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Lunar New Year celebrations during 2024 were nothing short of incredible in Nguyen Hue Walking Street.

Even as I sit here in my Airbnb in Seocho District in Seoul, more than a month after Tet’s festivities in Ho Chi Minh City and having already spent 3 weeks in Hong Kong, I remember them vividly as if they happened yesterday. 

Decorations like these were sprouting up in neighbourhoods during the weeks leading up.

Decorations in District 5, where all the Cantonese restaurants are.

Vietnamese New Year, also known as Tet holiday, is celebrated nationwide. It stands alone as the most significant festival for Vietnamese people. This year, it started on February 10. For many people, preparations began a month before.

Ben Thanh Market in District 1 was a particularly popular spot for photos.

The costume for Tet holiday is called Áo dài. It’s also worn during important occasions.

It was clear to me how much people enjoyed Tet. On my way into District 1’s main area (where Bitexco Financial Tower is), I regularly passed by crowds outside Ben Thanh Market. Many people wore Áo dài, an elegant national dress worn during important occasions. It was heartwarming to see people wear the Áo dài so proudly. One day, I stopped to do a spontaneous interview with a few.

The streets glowed with Tet decorations.

The dragon came out in performance during a night at Bam Bam, a club in downtown Saigon.

A traditional practice is for adults to give children “lucky money”. Li Xi describes the brightly coloured envelopes that money is placed in and then given to children during dinner. If you receive a li xi, remember to accept it with two hands to show sincerity.

A sea of people in Nguyen Hue Walking Street.

The whole street had been closed for more than 10 days as these soaring decorations were built.

Tet is a time for family reunion. It is customary for the young to pay the elderly their respects. Many phrases revolve around wishing each other peace, good health, and abundance. To express your good-will, you can say phrases like:

  • “Sức khỏe dồi dào” (Plenty of health)
  • “An khang thịnh vượng” (Security, good health, and prosperity)
For more phrases suitable for beginners, visit this article.

More specifically, it’s the Year of the Wood Dragon.

Tet holiday is the largest celebration in the Vietnamese calendar.

The standard phrase to greet people with is “Chúc mừng năm mới (Happy New Year)”. Say this with the earnest hope that their new year arrives with good fortune and harmony. You’ll hear the phrase said back to you, with a grateful smile.

The Dragon symbolises nobility, wealth, and wisdom.

New Year book street festival on Le Loi Street.

While I was told that the streets of Ho Chi Minh City would be quiet during Tet, I didn’t observe as such. One reason I heard from a local was that because of challenging economic times, many citizens didn’t have enough money to return to their province in Vietnam. 

The book festival has occured annually during the past 14 years.

Dragon-themed decorations in downtown Saigon.

On the eve of Lunar New Year, I was with a group which included people from Poland, Philippines and the U.S. I met them through a fellow digital nomad I met at “Bam Bam” (an upmarket nightclub in District 1 popular for younger crowds). We had dinner at a restaurant with disastrously slow service, before going to a convenience store to buy some alcoholic drinks.

Tet is spiritually and emotionally significant for Vietnamese people.

The atmosphere was festive in Nguyen Hue Boulevard, here people are walking to the fireworks.

Before the fireworks at midnight, we settled at a table on the rooftop of “Broma Not A Bar”. This bar has three levels, with two on the rooftop looking out at the bustling streets. It was particularly memorable clinking glasses of jagermeister with Polish people who had emphasised their ability to consume alcohol. 

On the rooftop of Broma Not a Bar, a club on the edge of Nguyen Hue Street.

Spectacular fireworks celebrating 10 February, and the start of a new year.

The Year of the Dragon occurs every 12 years, and the next one will be in 2036. Next year’s zodiac animal will be the snake. 

As the fireworks lit up the night sky, I closed my eyes. Transporting my mind momentarily away from the surrounding music of Broma Not A Bar’s rooftop, I reflected on the year that had passed. During 2023, I had visited Bangkok (February), Los Angeles (March), Busan (August), Fukuoka (September) and Sapporo (October). I’m happy to have a connection with each city (if you visit, send me an email for a complimentary itinerary!)

It was with preparation, hard-work and luck that allowed me to celebrate 2024’s Lunar New Year in this way: on a rooftop in Saigon, overlooking magnificent celebrations in District 1’s Nguyen Hue Boulevard while surrounded by cheerful Vietnamese people (and others from around the world).

A belated Chúc mừng năm mới to you all 🙂

A busy road next to Saigon river. You can see the glimmering skyscraper lights in the distance.