Celebrating Tet at wives’ hometowns emerging as new family tradition

By Thanh Nga   January 29, 2024 | 05:29 am PT
Celebrating Tet at wives’ hometowns emerging as new family tradition
Tet is a time for gathering with relatives and family. Illustration photo by Phan Duong
Tuan Hung, a 44-year-old Hanoian, eagerly anticipates celebrating Tet, Vietnam’s most important festival, with his wife and children in her hometown in Nghe An province.

Married to a woman from the central province for more than 17 years, Hung said every year his family makes the 300 km journey to his wife’s hometown three days before Tet begins.

Hung adores the Tet atmosphere of the place, and it’s a time when his family can all gather to wrap chung cake, stay up all night cooking, talking, and singing until morning.

He also admitted that the couple rarely quarrels during Tet because for his wife, being able to return home is what she desires most, so he arranges the whole trip, most importantly all the purchases and expenses, himself, so she can just rest and relax the whole time without having any responsibilities towards looking out for travel concerns.

"I want my wife to rest on such an occasion, when every other wife is busy taking care of Tet for her husband's family," Hung shared.

Hung and his wife got married in 2007. The first year Bich became his wife, Hung asked his parents for permission to celebrate New Year’s Eve with his wife’s family. His mother was hesitant but finally agreed.

"Being able to come my parents' home to celebrate New Year's Eve makes me appreciate my husband's family more," Bich said.

In Vietnam, it's a tradition for families to observe Tet, the country's most significant festival, with the husband's parents. This Tet will last from Feb. 8 to 14, 2024. The traditional festival will peak on Feb. 10.

Tuan Hung, 44, from Hanoi, joins his wifes family in wrapping chung cake for the 2023 Tet celebrations in Nghe An province. Photo courtesy of Hung

Tuan Hung, 44, from Hanoi, joins his wife's family in wrapping chung cake for the 2023 Tet celebrations in Nghe An province. Photo courtesy of Hung

Married since 2018, Van Thoai, 27 years old and from Bac Giang still keeps his pre-marriage promise that he will follow his wife to her home to celebrate Tet and not leave her by herself.

The wife's family has three sisters and his wife is the youngest. The first two sisters were allowed to return to their family from the 29th of the lunar month to the 2nd day of the lunar calendar. Gradually it became a family tradition, so he also wanted his wife to feel left out.

"My mother got married more than 300 km away. Every year she stays at her husband's house to take care of everything until the end of Tet. I don't want my wife to have to suffer like that during Tet," Thoai said.

Thoai admitted that he was often more excited about going home than his wife because his parents-in-law always really cared about him and always waited for Thoai to come home to treat him to delicious food. As the man of the house, he also wants to help his wife's family clean up the house for Tet.

"To balance the two sides, we both agreed to spend time traveling with my family on holidays during the year. So, when Tet comes, we can spend time at her place," Thoai said.

Tuyet Mai, 45 years old, an admin of a marriage discussion forum with more than 400,000 members, said that every year near Tet, there are many posts from women confiding about celebrating Tet, either with their parents or away from home.

Since the beginning of January, the group has received dozens of articles on this topic. Some confided that their husbands agreed to let them return to their parents, but were later scrutinized by their parents-in-law either by words or subtle disagreements.

A VnExpress survey of nearly 1,000 readers showed that 77% believe families should divide the time to celebrate Tet equally between both families, while 21% support celebrating Tet with the wife’s parents if everything has been arranged in advance.

There are currently no official statistics on the matter, but according to marriage and family psychologist Le Thi Minh Hoa (Sunny Care Psychological Institute, Ho Chi Minh City), going home to celebrate Tet with parents on the wife’s side is becoming more common among young couples. They are more open-minded, women are also confident and clearly express their views before getting married so that they can have equality when they return to their husbands’ houses.

"Many women today are also economically independent, which makes it easier for them to discuss with their husbands' families in calculating travel costs during Tet and taking good care of both families," Hoa said.

However, experts also believe that families should divide their Tet holidays alternately, with one year spent at the husband’s and another year at the wife’s. For families who do not live with their husband's family, they can consider which side is nearer and more convenient to travel to, and celebrate Tet together there.

According to Dr. Nguyen Thanh Nga, lecturer at the Academy of Journalism and Communication, returning to their wives’ families to celebrate Tet is a progressive view for husbands. It is a positive sign for gender equality, partly proving that such husbands respect and love their wives and care about their parents-in-law.

However, according to experts, only maternal and paternal families that are living near each other can support this lifestyle. But in cases where the two families are far apart, celebrating only at the wife’s side is not so reasonable.

"Everyone wants their children and grandchildren to reunite on this occasion, so they should plan carefully so that both families are happy," said Nga.

The expert added that for the eldest daughters, even if their husbands' parents support them in returning to their family for Tet, they will likely be judged by their husband's relatives and acquaintances. As such, husbands should think for both their wives and their own parents.

After three years of celebrating Tet at her family’s house, Thai Ha, 46 years old, in Nghe An, said that although she was happy, she was often criticized by neighbors as well as her husband's sisters.

She and her husband got married in 2000. For 20 years, she stayed at her husband's house to take care of the table, cooking, and cleaning. Her husband is a border guard stationed more than 200 km from home, so some years he doesn't come back, and sometimes he comes home only on the 1st or 2nd.

In 2021, knowing that her mother's health in the countryside was unstable, her parents-in-law suggested going back to her parents more often and staying back to take care of her mom during Tet.

"Previously, my husband's parents were very strict. During Tet, daughters-in-law had to stay with their husbands to give offerings to their ancestors. But over the past few years, I have been able to return to my mother, and I am very grateful," Ha said.

go to top