Traditional Vietnamese festivals have long been considered spiritual cultural of Vietnam, which is very important to all Vietnamese people. It is an occasion for people to show respect to ancestors, heroes and divine beings, national legends and wish for a better life as “When drinking water, think of its source”.
Each year, there are around 8000 Vietnamese festivals from every one of the regions, ethnics, and religions, ranging from the simple to the complex, from small festival to celebration. They bring you a chance to see more experience, more Vietnam’s culture and emerge yourself into the festive atmosphere with the locals. Vietnamese festivals provide an authentic way to see the “real” Vietnam. We would like to introduce some best festivals for tourists as below.
Tet Holiday (Lunar New Year) – The biggest event for Vietnamese festivals
Let’s start at the top of Vietnamese festival. The full name for Tet is Tet Nguyen Dan, which is the most important to all Vietnamese people. This festival sometimes falls between late January or early February that when Spring arrives. After a year of hard-working, Tet maybe the only occasion for all family members to have happy moments together and paying respect to ancestors and grandparents. It is an important mark to forget about the past. Especially unlucky and unhappy things, start afresh, and await good ones in the New Year.
Tet Ong Cong, Ong Tao (Gods and Goddess of Kitchen)
Before Tet, people prepare for Tet Ong Cong, Ong Tao (Gods and Goddess of Kitchen), which takes place on the 23rd of the last month in the lunar calendar. They prepare the traditional offerings and especially the carps to regale three gods and goddess of their kitchen. A week before Tet, their house is decorated with trees and flowers. Hoa Mai – Apricot Blossom (in the central and southern parts of Vietnam). Hoa Đào – peach flower (in the northern part of Vietnam) or Hoa Ban (in mountain areas). Especially, they spend more time to prepare for the altar with tray of five fruits, cakes, sweets, coffee, wine… Broken or old things will be repaired or replaced. All preparations to welcome the New Year and to receive luck as well as fortune.
On the last day of the year, every member gathers around a grand banquet to enjoy the last meal of the year. At the first moment of New Year, the young often go out to watch the firework performance. While the elderly and adults stay at home making offerings for outdoor worshiping to the Gods and indoor one to the ancestors.
Vietnamese New Year – Tet Holidays
During the Tet festival, Vietnamese people often go to pagodas to pray for a new year of luck, health, and fortune to every family members. They also stay at home to welcome guests or friends, relatives and neighborhood houses. It is an occasion when everyone says good things about each other. And they give lucky money to young children and old people.
Wandering Souls Day
Trung Nguyen or The Vu Lan ceremony or Wandering Souls’ Day is the second largest Vietnamese festivals after Tet Holiday. It is the important event to all Vietnamese people.
Many Vietnamese believe that every person has two parts: the soul and the body. When a man dead, the soul leaves the body, but the soul will continue to live on. The soul can return to heaven, or reincarnate (as a person or things), or go to hell. On the 15th day of the 7th Lunar Month, souls are are freed and be able to visit their families. If the souls don’t have home or relatives, they will wander on the streets, on on black clouds or over the rivers.
Wandering Soul Ceremony with monks
As Vietnamese people believe that the souls’ life after they die is the same to the time when still alive. They buy money and clothes made of votive papers for their ancestors. All are also burned at this time. Huge tables are prepared with offerings including meats and fruits. Besides, they also prepare more foods such as sticky rice cakes, vermicelli soup, and meat rolls for wandering souls, who have no home.
Perfume Pagoda Festival
Located at Huong Son Commune, My Duc District, Perfume Pagoda is the most famous Buddhist pilgrimage site in the North. Therefore, Chua Huong Pagoda Festival is one of many traditional and well-known Vietnamese festivals. The festival is taken place from the 6th day of the 1st month to the end of the 3rd month of the lunar calendar in three places, Huong Tich pagoda, Tuyet Son, and Long Van.
Each year, this Vietnamese festival attracts hundred of thousands of Vietnamese or foreigners. People heading there pray for happiness and prosperity in the coming year. As well as seeing a magnificent land, a famous beauty spot in Vietnam.
Visitors going by boat on Yen stream to Perfume Pagoda Festival
While taking a boat along the Yến Stream, visitors will have a chance to admire green rice paddles studded with jagged limestone mounts. You will forget the busy life to commune with nature, heave and earth. From the riverbank, pilgrims proceed on foot, up hundreds of stone steps and a switchback trail or take a cabin car to reach the pagoda.
Hue Festival is one of the biggest festivals in Vietnam, celebrated in even years in order to honor Hue’s cultural heritages. Since 1992, each time of celebration always attract millions of visitors and thousands of artists from from all over the world.
Coming to Hue on this occasion, you can also enjoy art exhibitions, film screenings, acrobatics, puppetry, and street performances. You will never have any moment as there are some many activities in this Vietnamese festivals. Event activities including Hue Poetry Festival, Ao Dai Fashion Shows, dialogue of drums and percussion, human chess, boat racing, kite flying, and more.
Main performance in Hue Festival
Hoi An Lantern Festival
Lanterns, a “specialty”, are the unique symbol of local people in Hoi An. After the sun has sunk, lanterns are lit every night in Hoi An. This is the charm of Hoi An ancient streets.
Hoi An lantern festival is one of the most attractive Vietnamese festivals in the Centre. It takes place monthly, but the largest event is the first full moon of the lunar new year. Each street, shop, public place… is decorated with many different lanterns. People leave hundreds of lanterns into the river as an offering and to worship their ancestors as well as the God of the land. Coming to Hoi An these days, tourists absolutely go into a fairy tale country, a magic kingdom of lanterns.
Hung King Festival
The Hung King Temple Festival is one of the most important and sacred festivals of the Vietnamese people. It takes place yearly at King Hung Temple from the 8th to 11th day of the third lunar month. It’s an opportunity for every Vietnamese to honors the first King of Vietnam. Each year, not only Vietnamese people from all over the country but also Vietnamese people living abroad gather on Nghia Linh Mountain, Phu Tho Province to take part in this historical and meaningful festival.
The ceremony takes place over several days, but the 10th day of the month is the most important. People prepare five-fruit trays including a pig, a goat, a cow, a couple of “chung” cakes and “day” cakes to sacrifice to Hung’s Kings. The main festival begin with a speech by a representative of government. A procession starts at the foot of the mountain and stops at every small temples before reaching Upper Temple (“Den Thuong”). After hearing the sound of an old bronze drum, they conduct the incense-offering rite.
People preparing for Hung King Festival Ceremony
After that, a wide range of activities will be taken place such as performances of folk songs (Cheo, Quan Ho…). As well as games of “danh du” (bamboo swings), “nem con” (game of throwing a sacred ball through the ring), rice cooking competitions, lion dance, human chess, water puppet performance, etc.
Mid-Autumn Festival – Vietnamese festivals for children
Besides the Tet Holiday, the Mid-Autumn festival is one of the most famous Vietnamese festivals. Held on the 15th day on the 8th lunar month, this festival is a traditional celebration for Vietnamese children. This is an occasion for members of the family to visit together . The young generation express their gratitude to the old generation. The parents show their love for their children.
Before Mid-Autumn day, the adults prepare many gifts for children such as : masks, clothes, toys, lantern… On this day, streets have dense crowds and noisier by the roistering drum and music. The adults prepare many different foods – moon cakes, candies, biscuits, jellies, and fruit, such as grapefruit, bananas, apples, mango, etc. Moon Cake is the symbol of the Mid-autumn festival. In the early days, there are only two traditional kinds including Banh Nuong (baked mooncake) and Banh Deo (sticky rice moon cake). Now, moon cake has many new ingredients introduced from other cultures and natural coloring from available fruits and vegetables.
Shops for Mid Autumn Festival in Hanoi Old Quarter
The most interesting on this day is dragon and lion dances performance. During and after the festival, most joyous in the days of 15th and 16th. The kids and their families follow the dancers and show their resplendent lanterns in the bustling crowd.
The Lim festival, opening on January 13th of first month of Lunar year, is the celebration of ‘Quan Ho’ singing. It was recognized as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2009.
During festival, young men and women from other villages come to Lim hill, Lim pagoda together to sing. Their name are brothers and sisters groups or “lien anh” and “lien chi”. All of them wear traditional costumes, which are a feature of the singing with female dress in the four panel traditional dresses: ‘’au tu than’’, and hats, ‘’non quai thao’’. Except for singing, there are many traditional games including bamboo swings, wrestling, rice cooking and human chess.