In Hue, Vietnam gets into pole position to celebrate Tet
An elaborate Tet pole ceremony was once the royal signal that the nation could start welcoming the Lunar New Year.
On Saturday, the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre relived the Tet pole ceremony that used to take place under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) to signal that Lunar New Year day preparations can begin.
The Tet pole, or Neu was an important rite under the Nguyen Dynasty. It informed the populace that the Lunar New Year was coming.
The long bamboo pole is traditionally placed in front of the house to prevent evils from invading the house’s spirit, especially on the 23rd day of the last lunar month when Kitchen Gods leave the house to submit their reports to the Jade Emperor in heaven.
Starting from the Hien Nhon gate, the bamboo pole, more than 15m long is carried on the shoulders by 10 people dressed as soldiers of the Nguyen Dynasty. They pass through the Trieu To Temple and Thai Hoa Palace to arrive at The Mieu Temple.
The elegant music band of the royal court follows the pole, playing old royal music.
At The Mieu Temple, an elaborate altar has been prepared for the ceremony.
Among the ceremonial offerings are betel leaves, arecanuts pork, chicken and sticky rice.
The Tet pole installation is a solemn ritual in which everyone wears traditional attires, royal music is played and seniors pray that all families are blessed with peace by the Spirit and by all ancestors.
The imperial court also installed the Tet pole to pray for good weather so the farmers would have a smooth cultivating and harvesting season.
According to historical records, during the reign of King Minh Mang (the second emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty, reigning from 1820-1841), a number of emperor's seals would be hung on the Tet pole. On the seventh day of the first lunar month, the seal was opened and the Tet pole was taken down, marking the official beginning of the New Year.
Heads of the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre in traditional Kinh costumes hold incense sticks and pray during the ceremony.
After the praying and the offering, the seal and parallel sentences composed and written by scholars in Chinese characters using black ink on red paper, seeking happiness, prosperity and longevity, are hung on the top of the bamboo pole.
When the pole stood stall above the walls of the ancient palace, the entire city could begin to hang their own Tet pole to welcome the Lunar New Year. After the ceremony at the The Mieu Temple, it will be repeated at several other relics in the complex of ancient Hue monuments on a simpler scale.
On the seventh day of the first lunar month, the tree will be taken down, marking the end of the Tet holiday and everybody will return to work.
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