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7 Interesting Facts About Tet Flowers

Peach Blossom and Woman

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Tet Trees and Tet Flowers

Vietnam is a country full of symbolism and tradition and no other time of year is this more apparent than at Tet, their important Lunar New Year festival. One important aspect of Tet traditions is decoration and plants and Tet flowers feature very heavily in this as they can symbolise new beginnings, vitality, and wealth amongst other things.

Every vietnamese household will have either a kumquat tree or a peach blossom tree or branch and flower markets will be at a breaking point with plants, flowers and the customers looking to buy them. Generally speaking, the northerners prefer the Marumi Kumquat and the Peach Blossom, whereas the Southerners opt for the Hoa Mai (incorrectly named ‘Yellow Apricot Tree’). There are many explanations as to why certain trees or plants are favoured but it mostly has to do with the different flowers available in the different climates or the North and the South.

Many people will also visit these markets of specially built photo spots to look around and take photos amongst the trees. They will wear their best (newly bought) clothes and will often choose the traditional ‘Ao Dai’. 

You can buy these plants and trees in the larger flower markets and as Tet draws closer farmers will be selling them on literally every street that they can find a little space on. Whole towns literally become marketplaces.  

Here are some of the most popular plants and flowers that you will commonly see at Tet along with the reasons why they are chosen. 

Tet Trees

Peach Blossom

Peach flower - peaceful and elegant

Peach blossom (Hoa Dao) is generally the favourite of the North of Vietnam. Some people feel that it is a ‘Braveheart’ as it flowers when most other trees are still dormant due to the cold and because ancient legend tells of it protecting against devils and ghosts. It represents the multiplication of things and new beginnings so it gives hope for the future. It is associated with happiness, wealth and good luck. On top of this, it is beautiful so it is easy to see why it is favoured. Gifting this tree shows your wish that the recipient is well protected against evil for the coming year. 

Yellow Apricot Blossom

Hoa Mai and decorations

Yellow apricot blossom (Hoa Mai) flowers at Tet time and is only grown in South Vietnam. Interestingly, it has no connection with apricot; this is a mistranslation and the name has stuck. Again, this tree represents luck, happiness and joy so is quite popular. The most common type of tree has 5 petals, which represent: happiness, longevity, wealth, luck and beauty. 

The Hoa Mai also has a huge number of blossom so people like this as they feel it symbolises abundance for the coming year. Gifting this tree shows your hope that the recipient will receive a lot of luck and good fortune in the coming year. 

Kumquat Tree

kumquat tree

The kumquat Tree gives a colourful boost to any living room or garden and is a welcome addition at Tet. Although it bears fruit all year round, it is particularly abundant at Tet time. These fruits symbolise prosperity and an abundance of life and health and the lush green leaves achievement in the new year. The more fruits there are on the tree, the more luck that is bestowed upon the owner. Giving a gift of a Kumquat Tree to someone will show that you hope the next year is filled with life and prosperity for them. 

The Hoa Mai also has a huge number of blossom so people like this as they feel it symbolises abundance for the coming year. Gifting this tree shows your hope that the recipient will receive a lot of luck and good fortune in the coming year. 

What to look for in a Tree

It is important for the tree or branch to look balanced and even. It should not be heavy or have more growth on one side. The bark of the tree should be dark and strong looking to contrast the colourful fruit or flower. Any flowers should be large and not crippled. Most people will choose a plant or tree that still has plenty of buds that have yet to open fully. Obviously, because they wish for it to remain fresh looking and not wilted. 

7 Interesting Facts

Fortune Telling Trees

People put great stock in these trees as a way of foretelling the upcoming year. If the blossoms are abundant, the year will be good and happy. However, if there is a late bloom or, worse still, none at all the year to come is said to be one of misery. 

Quick Get Another One

Once these trees or branches are moved indoors they are likely to shed their bloom quite quickly. Families will need to buy 3 or more branches of Tet blossom or 2 more trees in order to have healthy and fortuitous plants at home for the whole of the period. 

Rent A Tree

Many businesses and some wealthier families will choose to rent a tree for the period. These trees are cared for year round by farmers and then transported into location just before the celebrations begin. When they are no longer needed, they will be transported back to the farm where they will be cared for until next year. 

No Fakes, Please. We're Vietnamese.

You will not find a fake Tet tree for love nor money. It just doesn’t happen. You either get the real thing, which is not hard to do at all, or you get nothing. Any fake tree would not hold the symbolism or offer the good fortune that a real live tree can. 

Travelling Trees

Around Tet time it is very normal to see trees in the back of trucks and on motorbikes being transported to and fro. Roads will become crowded with tree laden vehicles and this will add to the traffic burden at this time of year. Remember to give any vehicle with a tree on it a wide berth. They can hardly see you and will be finding it hard to balance. 

Decorative Additions

Much like the custom of Christmas Trees, these Tet trees are often decorated with small hanging symbols of luck such as: red envelopes, chinese characters, images of lucky animals e.g. carp and maybe even greeting cards. 

Fortuitous Investment

Huge amounts of money can be spent on buying these trees for one’s family members or to gift to business partners. Rarely will people think twice or even blink upon hearing the astronomical amount spent. The better (more expensive) the tree, the luckier it will be for the owner and when you believe you will receive back many times more than your original investment in the form of good luck or health etc… it seems to be quite a simple equation. 

Tet Flowers

Along with trees, plants and flowers are significant at Tet time. People will buy them and use them to decorate their homes. Mostly, people will choose either the flowers they like to look at or the ones that they have traditionally associated with Tet. However, by reading the following about these flowers you will know more and be able to find out if your friend chose their flowers for a particular reason. 

Chrysanthemum

These are very commonly seen on the streets for sale and in homes as decoration at Tet. They are a symbol of life, happiness and wealth and make a colourful addition to the home. This flower is unpretentious and indicative of a simple, pure lifestyle and its vibrant colour instils confidence in the New Year. 

Sa Dec Chrysanthemums

Very often you will see these flowers sold potted in terracotta pots that allow them to remain in bloom for the duration of Tet. 

Marigold

The Marigold is a Mexican flower and is symbolic of the Sun and a desire to live a happy prosperous life. It is more popular in the South of the country. Optimism and a positive outlook on life is also associated because the flower blooms in the Winter and lasts for many years. 

marigolds for Tet

Marigolds are used to mourn and remember the dead as well as show filial piety towards ancestors. What is more, the scent is known for repelling insects, flies and mosquitoes so placing this on the family altar near offerings of fruit is a very wise choice. 

Orchid

Orchids come in a wide variety of shapes and colours and are symbols of wealth, royalty, luck, nobility and sophistication. These are very much a New Year flower for the rich. Hence, they are very sought after at Tet time and make excellent gifts when visiting a friend or colleague. They are also symbolic of reunion and prosperity, both of which are extremely important themes at Tet.

Tet moth-orchid

The white and purple moth orchid is extremely popular at Tet and can be seen in every flower shop or stall. 

Lily

The lily is associated with prosperity, abundance and success so is also a common choice for decoration at Tet. it is a noble flower and is also connected to fidelity and beauty. 

white orchid for Tet

There are 4 main types of lily and they can be chosen to signify different things: 

  • White – virginity, loyalty and nobility.
  • Orange – wealth and pride. 
  • Yellow – joy and gratitude.
  • Pink – innocence, youth and vitality.

However, most people will make their choice based on how the colour will compliment the decoration of their household and the beauty of the flower rather than the symbolic meaning. 

Transporting Tet Trees

There are other plants that some families will choose due to their meaning and or the expense of them such as Dracaena Fragrans which will represent good fortune and Rose Canina Buds which are called Tam Xuan ( Literally: find Spring). These along with Lucky Lanterns, Carp Fish and Red and Golden decorations fill Vietnamese homes in the hope of ushering in a happy and prosperous New Year. 

These are some of the many Vietnamese New Year’s Day flowers and plants that you will encounter when you are in Vietnam at Tet. Now, you can understand why certain plants have been chosen and look knowledgeable should you visit a local friend’s home at this time. Have fun. 

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