Unlike the Kinh majority, Muong Bi ethnic people think that spring arrives on the 27th day of the 12th lunar month instead of on the 23rd day. These days, all Muong Bi villages in the northern mountainous province of Hoa Binh are jubilantly celebrating Tet, the traditional lunar new year, Radio the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) reports.

On the 27th day of the 12th lunar month, Muong Bi people stop their farm work to prepare for Tet. For them, the ancestral altar is the most sacred place so it must be in the centre of the house. It is here that Muong Bi people hold their rituals and receive guests.

The altar must be prepared by men. Women are only allowed to prepare the altar when there is no man in the family. The altar must have incense and lamps. The bowls, chopsticks, betel, areca nuts, and fruits must be arranged neatly, according to the locals in Ai hamlet.

The cooking is done by the women. All the foods must be placed on banana tree leaves, because Muong Bi people's ancestors did not have dishes like today. Only the soup is put in bowls.

Muong Bi people think the deceased can enjoy food just as the living do. Bui Van Dung, head of Ai hamlet, said: “Because living conditions have improved, everyone now enjoys a sufficient Tet with pork, chicken and fish. They all have well-prepared feasts.”

In addition to meat, cakes, and wine, Muong Bi people erect a tall pole in front of their house. The pole must be bamboo or a similar kind of tree which has a thin, straight trunk.

“The pole is erected on the 27th day. We then knit a plate-sized wattle and put it on the door of our house. This is to chase away evil spirits. When Tet is over, the pole will fall by itself and we don’t have to pull it down," the VOV quoted a local man as saying.

Although the living conditions of Muong Bi people have improved, their cultural traditions remain intact. Peach flowers' red colour, which is thought to bring good luck to local people, covers Ai hamlet and everyone is welcoming the new year with hopes for a bumper crop and prosperity.-VNA