Vietnam Festivals offer visitors the best opportunity for getting up close and personal with the myths, customs and fun-loving spirit of this proud nation.
Vietnam festivals and holidays follow the Chinese lunar calendar—this Southeast Asian country’s culture and festivals are strongly influenced by Vietnam’s past as a Chinese vassal state. Thus many of the festivals in the list below are moveable relative to the Gregorian calendar; while the dates relative to the lunar calendar do not change, the dates relative to the Gregorian calendar do.
Some of these festivals are celebrated nationwide but as some provinces have their own series of festivals unique to the locals, we’ve tried to include some of the more notable local ones too.
Despite undergoing modern developments, Vietnam is still a predominantly traditional country, with thousands of pagodas and shrines dedicated to Buddha as well as various deities and iconic figures. There are also plenty of cultural events that are only celebrated during certain times of the year (or years), so you’ll never know when one decides to pop up during your trip to Vietnam. We’ve compiled a list of the best festivals in Vietnam, and while they’re celebrated just about anywhere in the country, we’ve included some suggestions on the best places so that you can fully experience these one-of-a-kind events during your holiday.
Vietnam Festivals in February – March
Don’t be surprised that almost the biggest and most important festivals in Vietnam take place in the beginning of the year and it is also the best time to visit Vietnam.
Tet Nguyen Dan (Vietnamese Lunar New Year)
Vietnam Lunar New Year (or Tet Holiday) is considered as the biggest and the most important Vietnam holidays of the year with very people in the country downing tools for family gatherings. It is originally celebrated by Vietnamese locals to thank the gods for the arrival of spring, a ritual dates back thousands of years ago. Today, Tet Holiday is a time for The Vietnamese paying respects to their ancestors and welcoming the New Year with family members.
This is an interesting time to visit Vietnam and you’ll witness bustling Hanoi or other big cities in a rare tranquility atmosphere because everyone traveling from across the country (or even the world) back to their hometown to spend Tet Holiday with their families. You can also find locals lighting fireworks, visiting temples with their families and the interesting radiant colors of Vietnamese flag, lanterns, flowers stalls at every corner.
Lunar New Year in Vietnam
Note: Tet Holiday is celebrated throughout Vietnam, but it’s best to be in the larger cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or ancient Towns like Hoi An, Hue, as smaller towns really do shut down, making it difficult to find food and transport. Hanoi is the best place to enjoy this holiday. When visiting Vietnam temples like Quan Su Pagoda or Ngoc Son Temple, you can see locals lighting incenses and praying to their ancestors in the morning while Hanoi Opera House often organize vibrant parties and fireworks displays. Tet in Vietnam’s equivalent to the Chinese New Year and is just as auspicious. The Vietnamese consider Tet to be the year’s most important festival. Family members gather in their hometowns, traveling from across the country (or the world) to spend the Tet holidays in each other’s company. On the stroke of midnight, as the old year turns into the new, Vietnamese usher out the old year and welcome the Kitchen God by beating drums, lighting firecrackers, and goading dogs to bark (a lucky omen).
The Tet Festival takes place on the 1st day of the 1st month of the Chinese lunar calendar. In 2019, Tet occurs on these dates: Saturday, February 2 to Sunday, February 10
Tet in Vietnam
Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival
The spring festival of Bai Dinh Pagoda – the biggest Buddhist complex in Vietnam – takes place since the first day of New Year, officially starts on the 6th day and lasts about three months till the end of the third lunar month. This festival is the perfect start for pilgrimages towards the imperial capital Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh province. In the festival days, there is a warm-heartedness of the young, the respect of the elderly and the joyfulness of the visitors and Buddhist follower. The groups of people crowdedly go along the hillsides. All the people are happy and excited.
Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival
Co Loa Citadel Festival
Among the very old days of the country, under the government of King An Duong Vuong (Thuc Phan), Vietnam was called Au Lac. The King decided to build Co Loa (located at Dong Anh District, Hanoi at present time) as the country’s royal palace.
To commemorate the event when An Duong Vuong started moving into the citadel, residents of 12 hamlets belonging to Co Loa as well as 7 other communes around the region held Co Loa Citadel Festival within a 10 day period—from the 6th to 16th day of the first Lunar month.
On the 5th day, at the afternoon, all of the eight communes hold a ceremony with incense offering at the communal house. Meanwhile, at An Duong Vuong Temple, the same ritual is held by the most respected elder among 8 communes, with revision of An Duong Vuong’s accomplishments and merits. On the next day—the official festive day—a procession in which the funeral oration, incense burner and stone tablet are taken from the elder’s house to Upper Temple is carried out. This settlement will be positioned in front of the two altars later on.
Co Loa Citadel Festival
The people join Co Loa Citadel Festival
Perfume Pagoda Festival
This stream of pilgrims reaches its peak at the Perfume Pagoda Festival – devotees travel through a picturesque gauntlet to the sacred caves, first boarding boats that pass a landscape of rice paddies and limestone mountains, then going by foot past historical shrines and up hundreds of stone steps.
The Perfume Pagoda Festival takes place on the 15th day of the first month of the Vietnamese lunar calendar. Relative to the Gregorian calendar, the festival occurs on these dates:
- 2019 – February 19
- 2020 – February 8
If you don’t like crowed place, you can head to Perfume Pagoda in early December to contemplate in peaceful space and see fascinating waterlily flowers booming along Yen Stream.
Recommend tours to Perfume Pagoda: Perfume Pagoda 1 day tour
Perfume Pagoda Festival in Vietnam
Monthly Hoi An Full Moon Festival
Every 14th day of the lunar month, Hoi An’s old town bans all motorized traffic and transforms itself into a massive performance venue for Vietnamese arts contemporary to the old trading town’s heyday in the 18th to 19th century—Chinese opera, Chinese chess, and of course, the region’s famous food.
Shops put up brightly-colored lanterns, turning the narrow old streets into a radiant, festively-illuminated light spectacle, augmented by the haunting strains of traditional music audible from just about everywhere in the old town.
Just for the night, you won’t be required to buy or show a ticket to enter Hoi An’s old attractions. The temples are at their busiest during the Full Moon Festival, as the locals honor their ancestors during this auspicious time of the month.
Hoi An Ancient Town
On the 13th day of the first lunar month, visitors come to Lim Hill in Bac Ninh province to watch performances of “quan ho,” traditional songs performed by both men and women from boats and from the Lim Pagoda. The songs cover numerous topics, such as greetings, exchanging love sentiments, and even trivial objects like village gates. Bac Ninh is only twenty minutes’ drive from Hanoi and worth a side trip after exploring the capital’s must-see sights.
The Lim Festival takes place on the 13th day of the first lunar month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Relative to the Gregorian calendar, the festival occurs on these dates:
- 2019 – February 17
- 2020 – February 6
Elephant race Organized annually in March of the lunar year, the festival takes place in Buon Don or in the thin woods along the Sveve River. Before entering the race, one of the jailers and the elephant was raised, but the supervisor was in the starting position. When the order comes, the elephants will compete in front of the gongs, drums, cheers cheering the mountains.
Elephant Race in Buon Don
This festival is quite popular among ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands and in the North of the South East. Buffalo stabbing takes place at leisure (when people are resting to prepare for a new crop), around March or April of the lunar calendar. For Ethiopian people in the Central Highlands, buffalo is often used as a spiritual sacrifice because they symbolize prosperity. Buffalo meat is shared by the people in the village to celebrate.
After ritual offerings, the buffalo was led to the column in the tree in the middle of the yard. All old, young, boys and girls in the same dance in the music of gong, gong. After that, a buffalo team equipped with spears and young boys, will be in the yard to start the buffalo.
Vietnam Festivals in April – May
Hue Festival 2019
Hue Festival – the biennial festival celebrated in the former imperial capital of Hue, the Hue Festival condenses the best of Hue’s culture into a single week-long festival.
Theater, puppetry, dance, music, and acrobatics will be performed in different places around the city, although most of the activities are conducted around the grounds of the Hue Citadel.
Thay Pagoda Festival
If any Buddhist monk deserved worship, it was Tu Dao Hanh, innovator and inventor. He made numerous advances in medicine and religion but is mainly remembered for inventing Vietnamese water puppetry.
The Thay Pagoda Festival celebrates Tu Dao Hanh’s life with a procession of the monk’s worshipping tablet, borne by representatives from four villages. The festival is celebrated by laymen with many water puppetry performances, particularly at the Thuy Dinh House in front of Tu Dao Hanh’s pagoda. The Thay Pagoda is located about 18 miles southwest from Hanoi, or about a 30-minute drive from the capital.
The Thay Pagoda Festival takes place on the 5th to the 7th day of the third month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Relative to the Gregorian calendar, the festival occurs on these dates:
You may also like: best places to visit in Vietnam in April
Hung King Festival
This festival celebrates the legendary birth of Vietnam’s first kings, the Hung Vuong. Details of their origin remain sketchy, but the story has become rather embellished over the years: born from the union of a mountain princess and a sea dragon, the Hung King came from a hundred sons hatched from a hundred eggs laid by said princess. Half the sons went back to the sea with their father, while the rest stayed behind with their mother and learned to rule.To remember the valiant sons of this lineage, people gather at the Hung Temple, located near Viet Tri City in Phu Tho province, about 50 miles from Hanoi.
Festivalgoers light incense, make offerings, and beat bronze drums at the temple, then join a temple fair, which includes entertainments like traditional Vietnamese operas and sword dances. This holiday is traditionally celebrated on the tenth day of the third lunar month; as of 2007, the Vietnamese government declared this to be a nationwide holiday. Relative to the Gregorian calendar, the festival occurs on these dates:
When it happens: 2018 – April 25
Hung King Festival
Buddha’s Birthday Early May
Buddha’s Birthday is celebrated by devotees throughout Vietnam, despite being a communist country. Taking place on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, many temples are adorned with lavish decorations with locals offering fruit, flower garlands, and various Vietnamese dishes. This event often draws thousands of visitors looking to partake in street parades and prayer sessions. Where’s the best place to celebrate? Hoi An is arguably the best place to enjoy this festivity. Held at Phap Bao Pagoda, the day starts with a procession of monks along the streets of Hoi An Ancient Town, before locals flock to the temple to perform religious rites and listen to Buddhist scriptures. In the evening, expect a lively parade along the main road of the Old Town, where animals are released while flower garlands and lanterns are placed along the riverbank. Aside from experiencing the local culture, Buddha’s Birthday is also a great time to enjoy vegetarian dishes sold by street vendors in Hoi An.
Reunification Day – April 30th
In the history of Vietnam, April 30th, 1975 is the day that marks the fall of Saigon government, ending the Vietnam War and leading to the liberation of Vietnam’s southern part. Like a major holiday in any city, there will be some changes to the usually day-to-day operation of Ho Chi Minh city. If you’re in town for the holiday, you’ll notice that every house flies a Vietnamese flag; the patriotism extends into the streets, with lights and flags decorating the entire city. An early morning street parade may close some of the city streets, and at the least expect the streets to be full of people on holiday.
International Labor Day – May 01st
Together with more than 80 countries all over the world, the International Workers’ Day, as known as International Labor Day or May Day in Vietnam, is a public holiday in Vietnam. It is celebrated on the first day of May, right after the Reunification Day; as a result, the two holidays are normally joined together into one break.
Xen Xo Phon festival
On the fourth month of the Lunar calendar (between April and May), the White Thai peoples of Mai Chau implore the heavens for rain with song. During selected evenings, groups of White Thai make a circuit among the houses in their respective villages, singing songs in the torchlight and receiving offerings in exchange.
The White Thai, ever dependent on the rain for their rice and vegetable harvests, seek help every year from the heavens to pray for more rain to come – the bigger the festival, the more abundant the rains will come when the weather turns. (Read more about travel during the monsoon season.)
Singing during Xen Xo Phon is a youngster’s game: the choirs are mainly composed of the youths of Mai Chau’s villages, while the parents and grandparents wait in the houses to give offerings after the songs have been performed.
Wandering Souls Day Early September (Vu Lan Festival)
The annual Wandering Souls Day takes place on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, which locals believe is the day when the spirits of their ancestors are able to visit their homes. On the eve of the festival, families flock to Buddhist temples and graves of their departed loved ones to offer prayers, flowers, sticky rice cakes, sugarcane, and fruits. Paper money and clothes are also burned during this time of the year. Where’s the best place to celebrate? While Wandering Souls Day celebrated by Buddhist population across Vietnam, the best place to enjoy this sombre festivity is in Hue, where numerous Buddhist shrines and pagodas are flooded with locals and monks performing ceremonies and prayers. The festival is also known as the Cold Food Festival (Tet Han Thuc) as chilled dishes such as banh troi (floating rice cake) and banh chay (glutinous rice balls with mung bean paste) are typically eaten.
Xen Xo Phon festival in Mai Chau
Vietnam Festivals in September/October
Vietnam Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn festival, or Tết Trung Thu, is marked with fanciful lanterns to help a legendary moon-bound figure back to Earth.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a favorite with children, as the occasion calls for more toys, candies, fruit, and entertainment than any other time of the year. Mid-Autumn parties serve cakes like the banh deo and banh nuong, shaped like fish and the moon. Finally, lion dances are commonly performed by traveling troupers who go from house to house to perform for a fee.
The Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Relative to the Gregorian calendar, the festival occurs on these dates:
Best places to enjoy the fullest festive atmosphere is Hoi An and Hanoi as you might have chances to participate in many cultural activities in Mid- Autumn Festival
When it happens: 2018 – September 24
Vietnam Independence Day – September 02nd
To any country, Independence Day is an important historical, political or cultural event associated with its current status. In most nations, this holiday originally leads to the birth of the country. In Vietnam, National Day is celebrated on 2 September. If the holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday may be observed as a public holiday. National Day marks Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France. To celebrate Vietnam’s national day, there are speeches, parades, fireworks, and other festivities across the country, with a large march in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, where the Declaration of Independence was made. This is a very patriotic holiday with the national flag of Vietnam displayed everywhere and large posters of Ho Chi Minh (‘Uncle Ho’) adorning city walls.
National Day – September 02nd
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