Tet Nguyen Dan is a Vietnamese festival beginning on the first day of the first lunar month. It marks the beginning of the lunar new year and the arrival of spring. Tet is the most popular festival in Vietnam and artifacts suggest that it has been celebrated since at least 500 B. C. E. The exact origin is unknown.
The goal of the Tet celebration is to begin the year right. On the eve of the three day festival, houses and ancestral graves are thoroughly cleaned and a ceremonial meal is prepared. Customs associated with other new year celebrations including paying off debts, giving gifts, resolving conflicts in relationships, and wearing new clothes are common during Tet. Other more unique activities include firecrackers (it is believed that loud sounds will drive away evil), boat races, swinging contests, and dragon dancing. The traditional dragon dance is meant to spread good health and wealth.
During Tet, many Vietnamese hang a traditional painting depicting a folktale about two lovers who have ignored their responsibilities. The king punishes the lovers by separating them on opposite sides of a river. The possibility of a reunion exists only once a year when the ravens create a bridge. The lovers are so overcome with emotion that all they can do is cry. Their tears become rain falling to earth.