Certain celebrations and traditions are big parts of Vietnamese life. On holidays everybody dresses up in their best clothes to enjoy the festivities. There are parades, and entire villages can be decorated for special celebrations. Each holiday holds a special place in the lives of the Vietnamese people.
The most important and most widely celebrated holiday in Vietnam is Tet, the lunar new year. Tet is celebrated during the full moon prior to the spring planting, usually in late January to mid February. Tet originally began as a festival before spring planting to pray for a good year; it eventually became much more. People all over the country and of all religions travel with gifts to their childhood home to bring in the new year. They decorate their homes and the graves of ancestors with flowering branches and red and gold paper. On midnight of the new year, they bang gongs and drums, and visit their friends. The status of a family's first visitor is believed to determine the luck of that family for the next year. The festivities can go on for nearly a week. Vietnamese people believe that the spirits of their ancestors return to earth on Tet, so they pay deceased friends and family members special respect during that time. Tet is a time for them to enjoy life, review the past, and plan for the future. Several military campaigns have been started during Tet because most soldiers return to their homes and families and defenses are low at that time.
Other Vietnamese holidays include Hai Ba Trung and Tet Trung Tha. Hai Ba Trung is a day in March when the Vietnamese celebrate and honor the Trung sisters, two warrior sisters credited for fighting the Chinese to drive them out of Vietnam nearly 2,000 years ago. Tet Trung Tha is the mid-September harvest festival, also known as the Children's festival. Children, under the full moon, dress up and parade through the streets carrying colorful, shaped paper lanterns. National holidays include a day in March to commemorate the reunification of Vietnam, Workers day (April 30), Ho Chi Minh's birthday (May 1), and National day (mid summer).
Birthdays are celebrated when a baby is one month old, and again on his or her second birthday, when the child is one year old. After that birthdays are not celebrated, and giving and receiving of gifts takes place on Tet.