Lights, flowers and decoration fill the streets around the capital as Hanoians count down the days to the Lunar New Year of the Snake.

Streets around Hoan Kiem Lake are a collage of reds, pinks and yellows as workers put the finishing touches to the ornamental trees and flower pots that line the pavements.

The newly created small gardens and Chuc Mung Nam Moi (Happy New Year) flower displays are a must-see for people of all ages and make a good photo opportunity. The recent warm and sunny weather adds to the exciting festive atmosphere.

Even the huge amount of traffic congestion can’t spoil the party mood.

Hanoi is ready to celebrate the most important festival of the year, which will last from February 10 to 17 this year.

“We have adorned 56 streets around Hanoi with lights, flags, flowers and banners to celebrate the Lunar New Year 2013,” says Tran Trong Hieu, head of the municipal Construction Department’s Environment Section.

“ Ba Dinh Square and the area around President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where culture and art performances will take place, have also been decorated with lights, flowers and ornamental plants.”

People have flooded the streets to make last minute purchases. Their long shopping lists include traditional food, snacks, drinks, gifts, plants, decorations, cleaning equipment and smart clothes.

Markets are well-stocked with Buddha statues, bananas, mangoes, pommels, kumquats, and dragon fruit. These goods are required to build up a traditional mam ngu qua (five-fruit tray), which is an indispensable item on the ancestral altar of every Vietnamese family.

This offering during Tet symbolises the respect and gratitude of the Vietnamese to their ancestors and Heaven and Earth.

Once everything else has been bought, it is time to take a relaxing walk through the city’s flower markets and pick out some beautiful decorations for the house.

Ornamental kumquat and peach trees are also indispensable for decorating the house during Tet in Hanoi .

The flower market in Hang Luoc Street which usually opens from 5am-9pm, pulls in crowds to the already busy Old Quarter. Around the corner, Hang Ma Street sells decorative stuff and envelopes for “lucky money”, while Hang Duong and Hang Buom are crowded with shops selling sweets and treats.

The result is chaotic scenes of traffic, crowds and noise, which show that Tet is here at last.-VNA