Vietnamese festivals provide visitors a great opportunity for getting up close with the mysterious culture of Vietnam and fun-loving spirit of people of this nation. Vietnam actually is still a predominantly traditional country with thousands of pagodas and various deities as well as shrines dedicated to Buddha, although it modernizes very quickly recently.
In Vietnam, there are plenty of festivals and cultural events celebrated during certain times of the year all of which are vibrant and exciting. You may come across some interesting event during your trip to Vietnam. Here we have complied a list of the best festivals with unique celebrations and some suggestions on the best places to help you plan a trip to Vietnam.
Tet Festival (the Lunar New Year)
Vietnamese New Year, the lunar New Year, locally called Tet, is the biggest and most important festival of the year. It is as important as Christmas in western countries. Tet is colorful, joyful and vivacious celebration intended to bring good luck to Vietnamese people at the beginning of the year.
Tet is the most important Vietnamese festival for family reunion. Vietnamese people travel great distances to return to their hometown. During the Tet festival, families visit temples to pray good lucks for the coming new year and set off fireworks to celebrate the new year! Sending flowers to friends is traditional custom so you will see an interesting sight of many flower stalls set up during Tet.
The best place to celebrate Tet
Tet is celebrated throughout Vietnam, but you'd better to enjoy the celebration in the larger cities, because the restaurants, markets, stalls really do shut down, making it difficult to find food and transport. Hanoi is the best place to enjoy the celebration of Tet festival. Quan Su Pagoda or Ngoc Son Temple are the best places to see locals lighting incenses and praying to their ancestors in the morning while vibrant parties and fireworks displays often organized in Hanoi Opera House.
Mid-Autumn Festival (celebrate the harvest)
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the oldest Vietnamese festival which has been inherited for about 3,000 years. It is held in the middle of the ninth lunar month celebrating the harvest season with lion dances, parades, firecrackers, hanging lanterns and tasty treats. The traditional foods that are served are mooncakes, sticky rice, various sweets and fruits. As a festival to celebrate the harvest, people set up an altar during the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, on which they pay honor to the full moon.
The best place to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival
The best place to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival is Hoian, where street performances are frequent and lively. The lantern parades are held in this beautiful ancient town which is the highlights of the festival. Hoian is the place while visitors can enjoy breathtaking sights of colorful paper lanterns lining.
Vesak Day (Buddha's Birthday)
When: Early May
Although Vietnam is a communist country, there are still lots of devotees in the country. Buddha's Birthday takes place on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month and it is a very important celebration in the country. During the day, temples are adorned with lavish decorations with offerings of flowers garlands, various Vietnamese dishes and fruit. This event often draws thousands of people take part in street parades and prayer sessions. Buddha's Birthday It is also The holiday is also a great opportunity for visitors to get a glimpse of Vietnamese Buddhism, which is different from the Thai or Burmese versions.
The best place to celebrate Vesak Day
The best place to experience Buddha's Birthday is Hoian. The celebration begins with reading the scriptures at Phap Bao Pagoda, then monks parade along the streets of the ancient town to the river where animals are released and flower garlands and lantern are placed along the riverbank. Local people flock to the temple to perform religious rites and listen to Buddhist scriptures.
Perfume Festival takes Perfume Pagoda in Hanoi, from the 15th day of the 1st lunar month during Mid-February/March. It always draws crowds of local pilgrims from all over Vietnam to Hanoi's iconic Perfume Pagoda. People go there to pray for a prosperous year and pay their respect to Buddha. Dragon dance at DenThinh Pagoda is at the beginning of the festival followed by a beautiful boat trip along the Yen River and then continues go through the limestone cave and rive fields by foot. During the trip, the people on the pilgrimage will offer a colorful display of food offerings, statue of deities and lit incenses.
Hoian Lantern Festival
When: once every month
Hoian Lantern Festival take places once a month to celebrate the full moon that transforms the quaint UNECO World Heritage Site into a spectacular display of paper lanterns. The festival takes place in the stunning Hoian ancient town. During the festival, every shop, bar, restaurant and business in the town switches off all electricity and relies on thousands of lanterns and candles which makes the beautiful ancient town even more breathtaking while if you go to the temples you can see monks and local peoples holding candlelit ceremonies. People also place the lanterns on the dark river, which creates a stunning show of dancing lights. Take a boat ride on the river and get up close to the beautiful scenery is a great way to experience the festival.
During the festival, thousands of Vietnamese people flock to Hoian to honor their ancestor, and it is usually crowded so you have to book the hotel in advance.
Wandering Souls Day
When: early September
Wandering Souls Day takes place on every 15th day of the 7th lunar month and although it began as a Buddhist celebration, today it has evolved to a festival widely practiced by people of all religions in Vietnam. Vietnamese believe spirits of their ancestors will come back to the earth the night before the festival so thousands of people journey to temples to pray and to celebrate the return of their ancestors.
During the festival, people set altars that with offering on them and place them in pagodas and public places to supply to their ancestors in order to please their spirits. This festival is also known as the Cold Food Festival, because during this festival, people eat banh troi and banh chay which are the cool food.
Best place to celebrate Wandering Souls Day
The best place to celebrate it is in Hue where there are lots of Buddhist shrines and pagodas and you can see locals praying the night before, and where monks can be seen performing ceremonies.
Phu Giay Festival(Goddess of Games)
When: Late March to early April
Phu Giay Festival is a celebration of the Goddess Lieu Hanh that happen at the Phu Giay Pagoda, around 88km east of Hanoi. It draws in worshippers to the pagoda to pray for good fortune whilst carrying decorated bamboo relics and wearing traditional costumes. During the festival, the temple hosts various games like lion dancing, folk dance, capture-the-flag, human chess and wrestling. The boisterous atmosphere throughout the day which guarantee to leave you a smile.
Best place to celebrate Phu Giay Festival
The best place to celebrate the Phu Giay Festival of course is in the Phu Giay Temple as the festival is only celebrated by villages within the Kim Thai Commune.
Huang King Temple Festival
When: early April
Hung King Temple festival takes place at Hung Temple in atop Nghia Linh Mountain in PHu Thao Province every early April. It is held in commemoration of Kinh Duong Vuong, who became Vietnam's first king in 289BC. During the festival, 100 lanterns are released into the sky on the eve of the festival. Later in the next morning, usually a flower ceremony is held at Den Thuong (Upper Temple), where the Huang Kings used to worship deities during their reign. A huge procession of pilgrims with ca tru classical operas, xoan classical song performances starts at the foot of the mountain going along the way towards the main Hung Temple.
Best place to celebrate Huang King Temple Festival
This Vietnamese festival is celebrated at the Hung Temple on Nghia Linh Mountain in Phong Chau District, Phu Tho Province.
Tips for Vietnamese festivals
The date of most festivals in Vietnam depends on the lunar calendar, which means they will occur on different days every year, so you'd better check the lunar calendar and make clear which is the exact day of the festival before go to Vietnam.
Many of Vietnamese festivals, especially Tet, which are the important days for family reunion, so the transportation is busy during these days, if you plan to travel during these period, you'd better book the planes, train or buses in advance.
Many Vietnamese people like to travel during the holidays, so the prices of travel and accommodation may increase. You'd better budget for higher prices during the festivals.
There are lots of Vietnamese reunion with their families which means in some cities especially the small towns, many restaurants and shops will close and so do some government-run institutions and sights such as exhibits and museums may be closed for a few days.
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