My mom and mother-in-law came to visit my family to celebrate the Vietnamese new year, Tết, with us in 2022, the year of the tiger. Vietnamese new year decorations would be incomplete without the display of red lucky envelopes hanging on branches of hoa mai flowers and cherry blossom flowers, and new year’s signs and wishes, the color red, and traditional food and fruits. I went all out with the decorations and below are the sources where I bought the decorations, materials, and props to help me decorate for the Vietnamese new year.
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Hoa Mai / Ochna Integerrima Flowers
Vietnamese Tết decorations would be incomplete without the display of “hoa mai” or apricot flowers (Ochna integerrima) in Vietnam. Here in US, you can grow hoa mai in pots outdoors and bring it inside when the temperature drops to the low 50’s Fahrenheit. Hoa mai can be grown in the ground here in zone 9B or warmer of Florida. I have no green thumb growing hoa mai so I rely on the fake flowers. I searched and no one in central Florida sells the realistic silk hoa mai flowers that includes the leaves, buds, and flowers. I purchased the “Plastic Artificial Yellow Apricot Blossom Flower (HOA mai chùm)” on Amazon for $19.99 per box.
Cherry Blossom Flowers
I found plenty of silk cherry blossom flowering branches for sale online and in craft stores, but the problem is finding a place that sells sturdy, realistic, and good quality silk cherry blossom flowers. After searching many places, I decided to buy two cherry blossom branches from www.ShopWildThings.com. Each cherry blossom branch cost $24.99 but there are six stems on each branch. Two branches fits nicely in a 12-inch tall vase with about 4-inch diameter.
My mom and MIL love the look of this weeping cherry blossoms when I finished arranging the two branches that they request me to gift them two branches for Christmas this year. I think these cherry blossom branches make a great gift for the Vietnamese elders.
DIY Tet’s Wishes on Signs
New year’s wishes are commonly printed or painted on fancy red velvet or red silk scrolls in gold lettering in Vietnam. For me, I decided to use my artistic skill and made my own new year wishes and signs using scrapbooking papers purchased from Hobby Lobby. I bought mainly glitter red, glitter yellow (gold), and solid red acid-free papers for my signs. Below are some Vietnamese new year wishes for reference:
- Chúc Mừng Năm Mới – Happy New Year
- Vạn Sự Như Ý – “Chúc bạn vạn sự như ý.” – Wishing friend 10 thousand wishes to come true.
- Mưa Thuận Gió Hoà – “Chúc bạn mưa gió thuận hòa.” – Wishing farmer or gardener pleasant weather with enough rain and wind for a bountiful crop and harvest.
- An Khang Thịnh Vượng – “Chúc bạn an khang thịnh vượng.” – Wishing friend security, good health, and prosperity.
- Tiền Vô Như Nước – Money flows in like water or wishing one wealth and prosperity.
- Tấn Tài Tấn Lọc – May tons of money and fortune come your way.
“Lì Xì” – Lucky Money in Red Envelopes
There’s limited online sellers that sell the Lì Xì red envelopes in Vietnamese. There’s plenty of red lucky envelope in Chinese, but I don’t read Chinese. After hunting all the Asian markets in Orlando, Tan Tien Vietnamese market is probably the only Asian market I know that sells Vietnamese lucky envelopes. A package of Vietnamese Lì Xì envelopes cost about $3.99 for 12 to 15 envelopes.
DIY Lanterns & Silk Lanterns
I drew and cut out the paper lantern stencils on thick scrapbooking paper of various shapes for me to trace and cut out. I bought the little red Chinese lanterns on Amazon and the Vietnamese colorful silk lanterns from a Hoi An lantern shop in Hoi An, Vietnam on Etsy.
Traditional Food & Fruits
Traditional food and fruits are displayed during Tet. Traditional food include bánh tét, bánh chưng, and dưa món. Bánh tét and bánh chưng are steamed sticky glutinous rice cakes filled with mung beans, pork belly, and seasoning ingredients. These rice cakes are wrapped with banana leaves. The only difference between the two is the shape. Bánh tét has a cylindrical shape about a foot long while the bánh chưng has a square shape. It’s best when they are fried. Vegetarian version of these Vietnamese new year rice cakes may be filled with ripened Thai bananas. Usually, the eldest person in the family makes these two Vietnamese new year glutinous rice cakes to gift to family and relatives during the holiday. For the past few years, it’s been my mother-in-law who has made these cakes and sent it to us for Tet.
Dưa món is savory pickled papaya and vegetables that accompanied with bánh tét and bánh chưng pork and mung bean filling. This is something I learned to make. I’m still working on putting this pictorial recipe together and will have the recipe published sometime soon. I’ll update this with my recipe link later.
Traditional fruits display for Tet include sugar apples, coconuts, papayas, and mangos. Sugar apples are expensive in the United States and cost at least $10 to $18 per pound when in season here in Florida. Tet occurs between January and February which means it’s off season for sugar apples while coconuts, papayas, and mangos can easily be found at the Asian markets. Candied dried or dehydrated fruits are commonly available during Vietnamese new year. My favorites are candied gooseberry, coconut strips, tamarind, plums, and mangos.
For your inspirations, these are all the Tet decorations I had done as the years pass since 2020…