Visit Vietnam During Festival Season

Vietnam is on the radar as one of the hottest destinations to visit right now. Still relatively removed from ‘overtourism’, exploring Vietnam is  revered for its people, food, landscape, architecture and culture. But who knew this Southeastern Asian country hosted so many festivals throughout the year.  Here are our recommendations…

MONTHLY:  Hoi An Lantern Festival
Simply put: you can’t travel to Hoi An without attending one of the full moon festivals held on the 14th day of each lunar month. During the full moon, the narrow streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site township are transformed. The electricity is switched off and all the stores, temples and restaurants are decorated with hundreds of stunning lanterns in all shapes, sizes and colors – it’s a visual delight like no other.  

Tet Nguyen Dan – Vietnamese New Year
One of the  most important festivals as well as a national holiday, Vietnamese New year is celebrated with many colourful traditions including fireworks, games, music and dance.   Red and yellow are the festival colors with the streets decorated in these vibrant hues. On the final day, the Vietnamese visit the temple with offerings of fruit to pay respect to their ancestors. ‘Tet Nguyenn Dan’ means ‘Lunar New Year in Vietnamese and is translated as ‘the first morning of the first day of the new year. ’The actual day varies according to the lunar calendar but typically falls in late January to early February.

Perfume Pagoda Festival – HANOI
This is one of Hanoi’s most popular annual Buddhist festivals and is usually held between February and March. Thousands make the pilgrimage through rice paddies, mountains and by boat to the Perfume Pagoda. It’s here they pay respects to Buddha and pray for a prosperous year ahead. Festival highlights include dragon dances, colorful food and incense rituals as well as the final 120-step climb to the sacred Hyong Rich Caves where the iconic Perfume Pagoda awaits.   It’s the most significant pilgrimage festival in the country and is very popular with tourists.

We recommend anyone with an interest in traditional and International music and arts to mark this one in their diary.  Held every two years in the ancient capital city of Hue, this festival is celebrated between April and June. Hue is all about cultural exchange and visitors are treated to a full spectrum of Vietnamese and International performances including poetry, chess games, film, music, street arts performances and  art exhibitions. The festival also showcases traditional Hue plays, singing, dancing and so much more.

Wandering Souls Day Festival
Now this is something unique. Held on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month, this sacred Buddhist festival is said to be one of the best and largest full moon celebrations of the year. Also known as ‘Trung Nguyen’, during this Vietnamese festival, it’s believed that ancestors are able to visit their families on this day (which explains why everyone flocks to the Buddhist temples to pay respect for their ancestors). Throughout Hoi An, observe floating lights along the river and offerings of cakes, sweets, sticky rice cakes, and ‘five fruits’ at the shrines and pagodas. The festival honors forgiveness and gratitude for the deceased.

Mid-Autumn Festival
If you are visiting Vietnam in October, then try not to miss the exquisite lantern festival as it’s considered one of the best.  Celebrated by both Vietnamese and Chinese cultures, this is also known as the Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival. Traditionally, this full moon festival was when friends and families gathered to give thanks for the harvest of their crops. Delicacies served during this festival include deliciously rich mooncakes, sweets and biscuits. When night falls, lanterns are lit and released in the evening sky – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.

When you seek to experience a local festival then we suggest you head to Lim hill situated in the Bac Ninh province around twenty-minutes from Hanoi. The Lim Festival is celebrated on the 12th or 13th day of the first lunar month of the year. It showcases the best of Lim’s traditional folk culture with music, song and poetry. Thousands of visitors travel here each year to enjoy the variety of performances including processions, ceremonies, performances and even wrestling, weaving and chess competitions.

TRAVEL TIP : Be mindful that some of these are considered the most important festivals of the year so, make sure you book your accommodation ahead.

Karma Cây Tre, Hội An, Vietnam
Written by Karma Group

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