HCM City is preparing for traditional Tet (Lunar New Year) with music shows, charity activities, art exhibitions and calligraphy markets.

The Youth Cultural House has launched a Tet Festival for city residents, especially for students who cannot return to their hometowns during Lunar New Year festivities.

Famous singers including Phuong Thanh, Hien Thuc and Quang Linh will perform at a music show at the cultural house today.

At the Am Tinh Mua Xuan (Warm Spring) concert, an auction of Vietnam 's largest paper crane, made of 18,000 cranes, will be held to raise funds for gifts for 15,000 poor children and people.

The city's teenagers will have a chance to learn how to make southern Vietnam 's traditional cylindrical glutinous race cake, banh tet, at the Banh Tet Festival, held on Jan. 31.

All cakes which are made at the event will be given to needy children.

The cultural house will also organise dozens of cultural, entertainment and sports activities until February 7.

The city's Information and Communications Department, for the first time, will host a book exhibition on Mac Thi Buoi Street , a section from Dong Khoi Street to Nguyen Hue Street , from January 31 to February 6.

The Uoc Mo (Wish) exhibition will display more than 1,000 titles of children books and thousands of other titles from eight publishers and distributors, including the HCM City Book Distribution Corporation (FAHASA), Dai Truong Phat Company, Vinabook, Sai Gon Media, the General Science Library, and Cuu Duc, Nhan Van and Thanh Nghia bookstores.

Visitors can read books on-site, borrow them, or bring their own books and exchange for others at the exhibition.

As one of Vietnamese traditions, before Tet, people visit calligraphers (ong do) asking for New Year greetings that wish people happiness, healthy, wealth or longevity.

Nearly 100 young and old calligraphers wearing the traditional Vietnamese costume ao dai (traditional long dress) gathered on the city's main streets on Jan. 22 to compose the greetings in black and yellow ink on red paper.

As usual, a red covering is on the front of the Labourer's Cultural House on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street in District 3.

The annual calligraphy market features 35 stalls, including members of the cultural house's Vietnamese Calligraphy Club and students from city universities.

Thanh Loc, a tour guide of Viettravel, said he took part in the event when it was first launched four years ago.

"However, it took me 10 years to practise calligraphy to have confidence in selling calligraphy to people," he said.

Another calligraphy market in front of the city's Youth Cultural House on Pham Ngoc Thach Street features more than 30 artists from the cultural house's calligraphy club and neighbouring provinces.

Apart from calligraphy, ink and wash paintings, oil paintings and embroidered paintings with calligraphy are also displayed at the market.

The calligraphy works and paintings sell for 50,000 – 1,000,000 VND (2.5 – 50 USD), depending on the craftsmanship, size, and materials.

Both markets will remain open until February 2 (Lunar New Year's Eve)./