Some ethnic minority groups across Vietnam maintain customs and habits passed down over the centuries to mark the Lunar New Year festivities of Tet, from stealing for good luck to slapping women on the bottom.
Washing hair by sour rice water
The Thai Trang, or White Thai, in northern Son La Province have a custom of washing their hair in sour rice water on the afternoon of the final day before the Tet festival to cleanse away bad luck of the old year and open the way for fortune in the New Year. At the end of the hair washing ceremony, men and women engage in boat racing.
Stealing for good luck
The Lo Lo people in northern Ha Giang Province steal things for good luck, but never anything of great value, only onions or garlic or fire wood. They act alone and try not to get caught, but even if they are they are forgiven. What they manage to take is said to bring them good luck to their family for the year. On the last day before the Tet festival, the Lo Lo will mark their belongings, such the family’s hoe, shovel, knives, plough, animal coops, even trees, with silver-coloured or yellow paper.
‘Singing’ with roosters
The Pu Peo believe the crowing of roosters to be sacred and watch the birds on New Year’s Eve. When they hear the rooster flap its wings in preparation for crowing, they light a cracker and throw it into the coop to force all the birds to crow together. They immediately sing loudly to drown out the crowing in hope of attracting good luck.
Among the Mong, a man will slap the bottom of any woman he likes on the Eve of Tet, so they can share feelings overnight.
Worshiping a bowl of water
The Pa Then in northern Ha Giang province place a covered bowl of water on the family altar and do not uncover it until June, when it is kept replenished until Tet. And on the day before the Tet festival, doors, windows and holes are sealed and the family cooks a pot of rice to eat in private, then take down the bowl of water from the altar to use for cleaning, replacing it with fresh water.
Pig liver divination
Ha Nhi families kill a pig to honour their ancestors, and examine its liver to predict what the coming year holds.