Guide to Hoi An Lantern Festival: When & How?

History, Highlights, What to See and Do at Hoi An Lantern Festival

Rachel Tran
Rachel Tran | Published: August 11, 2020

Hoi An, an ancient town in Quang Nam province, is so famous for some traditional handicrafts. Among them, lantern making is the most standing out. Visiting the town, it is easy to catch beautiful lanterns hanging in every street, creating a magical scene that you will never forget. For those who love lanterns and wish to dig deeper into this tradition of the town, there is nowhere else better than Hoi An lantern festival held monthly on 14th day of the lunar calendar.

    Location: The area between the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Cau An Hoi Bridge
    Opening time: 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm on the 14th monthly of the lunar calender

I. History of Hoi An Festival

History of Hoi An Lantern festival
Source: hiddenhoian.com

As you may know, the full moon is always considered a significant time of the lunar months in Vietnamese traditions. During the 16th and 17th century, Hoi An used to be an important trading port which was always bustled with so many merchants coming from different countries in the world. The Japanese merchants who came here in this period usually brought their various lanterns hanging in front of their home. As time went by, the local people began to imitate this and started making and hanging the lanterns to wish for good luck.

This cultural influence has been well maintained until today. In 1998, Hoi An local authorities decided to hold lantern festivals monthly on the full moon celebrations. The festival has spreaded, and many Vietnamese and international tourists flock to the area to join it.

II. Highlights of Hoi An Lantern Festival

Highlights of Hoi An Lantern Festival

As its name suggests, lanterns are the main feature of the festival. The colorful lanterns with candles placed inside are placed on the river to pray for good health, peace, and luck. Especially, during this time, the electricity is minimally used throughout the city to let the lanterns illuminate Hoi An ancient town. This creates a picturesque scene that you may not find in other parts of Vietnam.

The vehicles and bicycles are banned in this area, so you can walk around and soak up the festive atmosphere at its best. You also have a chance to watch unique performances along the river banks such as bamboo flutes, fiddles, poetry reading, and participate in a local traditional game called Bai Choi.

There are also many street food stalls along the river so it would be your great time enjoying delicious local food and trying tasty moon cakes. If you are interested in local religion, just visit shrines where you will meet locals giving their offerings such as food, flowers, and candles to the god.

III. What to See and Do at Hoi An Lantern Festival?

1. Dropping Lanterns from a Boat

Dropping Lanterns from a Boat - activities in Hoi An lantern festival

Drop your lanterns from the shore is always an interesting activity that most tourists choose. However, it would be a double feeling and much more amazing experience to try dropping lanterns from a boat. Just take a few steps to Bach Dang wharf, you will meet the awaiting boatmen who will take you on the river to release the lanterns and they will tell you fascinating stories about this ancient town.

2. Watch Bai Choi Performance

Watch Bai Choi Performance

Music, acting, painting, poetry and literature, all of them are combined in Bai Choi, a great folk game of this Vietnamese region. Created by local peasants a long time ago, it has a set of rules including both folk singing and card drawing. The songs used in the game are about the farmers’ life and work  and represent their patriotism as well as the community’s connectivity. So, when visiting this festival, don’t forget to watch or play this folk game to enjoy the lively atmosphere.

3. Visiting a Temple

Visiting a temple during Hoi An lantern festival

Full moon is always the time when pagodas and temples in Hoi An are the most crowded with locals honoring their ancestor and offering incense, flowers and fruits. Most pagodas and temples in the ancient town are easily realized as they look different with a strong influence from Chinese architecture. You can buy a single ticket at VND 120.000 to visit all temples, houses, and museums. In the lantern festival, the best temple to visit is Quan Cong Pagoda where most local tourists come to wish for luck and happiness.

4. Take Photos of Lantern View

Take photos of lantern
Source: @davesmithimagequest

The festival gives tourists many photo chances, so don’t forget to bring a good camera with you to capture the best moments. The Hoai river filled with lanterns is always an ideal place to take some photos. Besides, there are also some other places such as the Japanese Covered Bridge, Old House of Tan Ky, Fujian Assembly Hall, and Cantonese Assembly Hall. All of these places look so fantastic under the multi-colored lanterns.

IV. Tips on Visiting the Festival

  • The biggest Hoi An lantern festival is held on the first full moon of the lunar new year. So, you should visit the festival on this occasion to enjoy it at its most brilliant.
  • Crowds are expected because this is a popular event that locals and tourists flock to 2 banks of the river. You should arrive early to secure a good spot for the best views of the river.
  • Bring the good photography equipment to get the best night shots.
  • Don’t forget to keep your equipment and belongings close and make sure nothing can fall into the water.
  • It’s better to wear quality shoes because vehicles are banned and you may have to walk quite a bit.
  • You can buy a handmade lantern for a coast at a cost around USD 0.5
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