Tết Đoan Ngọ is also know as tết sâu bọ or tết tháng 5 is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. It is said that this special day is when “New Year” in haven, hell and on earth collides (in Vietnamese tradition there is a “New Year” to celebrate every lunar month). It is also called tết sâu bọ (sâu bọ = worms, pests) because by this date framers would have prepared their land and rid all pests to start growing their crops for the new season. The tradition of eating dumplings, especially lye water dumplings, extends from the belief that these dumplings will cleanse one’s body of any unwanted “parasites”. I have been told, Tết tháng 5 is usually heavily celebrated in farming villages. Reason being, farmers are usually too busy during Tết Nguyên Đán (the new year celebrated in late January/early February) supplying everyone with fresh flowers, fruit, rice, and veggies that they do not have to time to celebrate Tết Nguyên Đán themselves. Therefore, they celebrate their own new years in the 5th lunar month. These days it seems as though Tết Đoan Ngọ has been forgotten and no one really celebrates it anymore…a few dumplings to kick up the mood that’s it….how sad!

Comments (3)

On 3:58 AM , Anonymous said...


I just happened upon your site. Good stuff. The tradition originated in China. But from your description of why it's celebrated in Vietnam, it looks like its meaning has been lost. Rather than me explaining it, I'd like to direct you to Wikipedia for a good explanation.


On 12:05 AM , Hien Ngo said...


I was looking up for the English translation of 'Tết Đoan Ngọ' when I ran into your blog. I don't know whether 'dumplings festival' is correct but I would praise you for your great blog about our country's cuisine.

On 1:37 AM , Ngọc Thuyết said...

The term "dumpling festival" actually has other meaning according to China tradition.

Many years ago, in ancient China, the patriotic poet and statesman Qu Yuan threw himself into the waters of the Milo River in order to protest against injustice and corruption. Some fishermen wanted to save the young idealist's body from being consumed by the demons. So they started beating drums and gongs and threw rice into the water as offerings.

Keeping this occasion in mind, every year during the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, the Chinese in Singapore, Malaysia... organize dragon boat races and eat dumplings. This day is known as the Festival of Dumpling in Singapore. The dragon boat races are known to represent the search for the poet's body.

During the Dumpling Festival Singapore, the dumplings, or 'zongzi', the little packets of sticky rice wrapped up in bamboo leaves, are thrown into the river as offerings. There is a probability that these 'zongzi' originated in the bamboo tubes of rice. To stop the river demons from eating them, the rice packets were tied with bright colored silk threads.

About "Tet Doan Ngo" in VN, it normally called "Double Five festival". It has the meaning like you just explain, and we eat "small pyramidal glutinous rice cake" (banh u) instead of dumpling (banh bao).

Moreover, dun be sad about no one celebrate it anymore. It's still very important and popular in VN :)