Vietnam has an unique culture that has undergone over the millennia. This leads to numerous special festivals where it shows belief and tradition of Vietnamese people clearly. Apart from admiring breathtaking natural landscapes, it is also worth enjoying some of the festivals in Vietnam to get a better understanding of this peaceful country.
Vietnam is divided into 3 regions: the North, Central, and the South. The unique characteristics of each region is clearly shown in their festivals.
Below are the 10 biggest and most popular festivals in Vietnam, celebrated all year round, that you should not miss.
1. Lunar New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan)
When it is held: Beginning of Lunar New Year
Recommended place: Hanoi, Vietnam
Lunar New Year, or Tet, is considered the most important festival and holiday in Vietnam. All schools, companies, factories are temporarily closed. It is the occasion for family unions and gatherings when people return to their families. To prepare for this special day, most Vietnamese people prepare by cleaning and decorating their houses as well as cooking delicious foods. There are a lot of special Vietnamese customs during this time that you could learn. For example, the importance of the first person visiting the house on the new year, wishing greetings of New Year, ancestral worship, and giving lucky money to elderly people and children (aka “Li Xi” in Vietnamese language). During Tet, Vietnamese people will visit their relatives, go to pagodas and temples to pray for a better upcoming year.
2. Hung King Temple Festival
When it is held: 8th to 11th day of the 3rd lunar month
Recommended place: Hung Temple, Co Tich village, Hy Cuong commune, Phong Chau district, Phu Tho province.
Hung King Temple festival is a national event that is held in Phu Tho. As its name suggests, it takes place annually to commemorate Hung Kings – the founder of the nation. During the festival, people from all over the country and those living abroad head for the main temple on Nghia Linh, Phu Tho to take part in this meaningful festival. The atmosphere of the festival is always bustling with many different folk games including human chess, bamboo swings, rice cooking competitions, “nem con”, wrestling, lion dance, etc. The highlight of the festival is the procession up to Den Thuong (Upper Temple) with participation of governmental leaders, villagers, and many visitors.
3. Giong Festival
When it is held: 6th to 8th day of 1st lunar month
Place: Soc Temple, Ve Linh mountain, Phu Linh commune, Soc Son district, Hanoi
In spring time annually, local people are excited to attend the Giong Festival. The festival is mainly held in Phu Dong Temple, Soc Son, to commemorate Saint Giong, one of the 4 Vietnamese immortals. It is so meaningful and notable that it was recognized as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind by UNESCO. During the festival, visitors can witness ceremonies including processions, cleaning the statue of Saint Giong, and incense offerings. The stories will let you know information about Saint Giong and the reason why he became one of the 4 immortals in Vietnam.
Besides, you also have a chance to immerse yourself in interesting folk games and enjoy traditional singing. For local people, it is an occasion not only to commemorate the Saint but also to pray for abundant harvest and happy lives. Giong Festival could be held in different places but Soc Temple and Phu Dong Temple are the 2 most well known ones. Don’t forget to attend this interesting festivals in Vietnam.
4. Lim Festival
When it is held: 12th to 13th day of the 1st lunar month
Place: Lim Town, Tien Du district, Bac Ninh province
The list of traditional festivals in Vietnam would not be complete without Lim Festival. Held around the 12th and 13th day of the first lunar month, this festival dates back more than 300 years. It takes place in Bac Ninh where “Quan Ho” singing features. To start the festival, the representatives of the villagers will offer incense and flowers at the pagoda to worship Nguyen Dinh Dien – the man who brought great honour to Lim town and also founded the festival. Undoubtedly, “Quan Ho” singing is one of the main highlights that many tourists have on the list of must-dos when travelling to Vietnam.
It is easy to realize local female singers by looking at their clothes. They wear their own traditional costumes including “ao tu than” – the local traditional dresses with 4 panels, and “non quai thao” – a big round hat. The males’ costumes are no less elegant. In some performances, you can listen to sweet love duets involving some couple singers. Apart from Quan Ho singing, there are also many Vietnamese traditional games to join including rice cooking, human chess, wrestling and bamboo swings.
5. Perfume Pagoda Festival
When it is held: 6th of lunar January until March
Place: Perfume Pagoda, Huong Son commune, My Duc district, Hanoi
Perfume Pagoda festival draws visitors all over Vietnam to the iconic Perfume Pagoda. As one of the most popular festivals in Hanoi, there are plenty of tour companies that operate day trips to the pagoda during this festival. On the way to Perfume Pagoda, you will pass by many beautiful mountainous landscapes, rice fields, and limestone caves. After that, you can choose to climb 120-step stone stairways or take a cable car to the pagoda. During the 3 months, the temple is always decorated with beautiful garlands, candles, and gold. One of the most important activities in the festival is praying in the Huong Tich Cave. It is believed that if you pray here to get a son or daughter by touching the mountain, your wish will come true. And, if you touch the silver or gold trees in the cave, you can pray for wealth and prosperity.
6. Budda’s Birthday
When it is held: 9th day of lunar April
Recommended places: Quan Su Pagoda, 73 Quan Su street, Tran Hung Dao ward, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
With more than 50% of the population following Buddhist practices, Buddha’s Birthday becomes a really important event to Vietnamese people. It is their chance to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and the death of Buddha. In Vietnam, it is not just a religious festival but also a national festival. Before the festival, hundreds of monks and thousands of people will gather in big pagodas chosen to be the holding place. These pagodas will be cleaned and decorated with Buddha’s statue in the middle of a pink lotus. Around them, there are also many colorful lanterns, different kinds of flowers, and small lotus flowers.
Buddhist followers will gather in the early morning of the 15th day to prepare for the festival. Buddha’s Birthday has 2 main parts including the ceremony and entertaining activities. For thousands of years, sacred rituals like offering incense and flowers to celebrate the birthday of Buddha and pray for peace still remain. Also on this day, people will actively participate in charity activities like helping the unlucky, mental retarded and the elderly. Visiting the pagodas during the festival, you will have a chance to enjoy delicious Vietnamese vegetarian dishes.
7. Mid-Autumn Festival
When it is held: 14th to 15th day of the 8th lunar month
Recommended place: Hang Ma street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi
Every Vietnamese child dreams of an amazing Mid Autumn Festival with a belly full of mooncakes and their own bright lantern. Mid Autumn is also called “Children’s Festival” or “Tet Trung Thu” in Vietnamese. Though this festival is also held in China and many Asian countries, Vietnam version is different with their own traditions and legends. It takes quite a long time to prepare for this special event. In the weeks before it, you can see groups of lion dancers practicing on the streets, mooncakes, lanterns, and colorful masks sold in every corner.
During the festival, the atmosphere becomes more bustling. The streets are packed with so many people and their children. In certain places like Hang Ma street in Hanoi or riverside of Hoi An ancient town, music is louder and performances make the atmosphere hotter than ever. But, the most satisfying thing when joining in the Mid Autumn Festival might be seeing the happy faces of every child.
8. Kate Festival
When it is held: 1st day to 3rd day of the 7th month in the Cham calendar.
Recommended place: Champa Towers, Binh Thuan province
Vietnam has a considerable population of Cham people living in Southern Central Vietnam. To this community, Kate Festival is the most important festival. Several places hold this festival but the main one takes place at the 3 temple towers of Po Rome, Po Nagar, Po Klong Garai in Ninh Thuan Province. It aims at commemorating the Cham people’s heroes, their kings and ancestors. Besides, it is also a chance for this community to socialize, wish for good luck, visit family members and friends, and enjoy various cultural activities. If you are a culture lover, it would be a miss not to join this festival in Vietnam. It is truly a great opportunity to explore the beauty of Cham culture, admire unique architecture, get to know their customs and traditional songs.
9. Ghost Festival/ Wandering Souls Day
When it is held: 15th night of the 7th lunar month
Recommended place: Hue city, Vietnam
Many festivals in Vietnam take place on the occasions of the moon, so does the Wandering Souls Day. It is believed that lunar July will bring bad luck and also curses of the wandering souls. It is the time when ghosts roam around and make trouble for everyone. For the lost ghosts who had no families or died of hunger, 15th July annually is the only day they can be fed. If they are hungry, they will be angry and create trouble. Therefore, all of Vietnamese people will do offerings and support homeless souls this month. Lots of fire will be set to burn votive paper for them. Pagodas and temples will become busier with people coming to send their offerings of clothes, food, and other items to worship ghosts and hungry spirits.
10. Khau Vai Love Market Festival
When it is held: lunar March 26th
Place: Khau Vai Love Market, Meo Vac district, Ha Giang
If lush rice terraces in Northern Vietnam attracts you to Vietnam, don’t miss out on Khau Vai Love Market Festival. Held in Ha Giang province – the land of spectacular mountains, it is the natural beauty of ethnic minorities groups. On the 26th and 27th of the 3rd lunar month annually, you will see a huge number of ethnic locals gathering in one of the most famous love markets called Khau Vai.
Existing for more than 100 years, the festival is an occasion for couples who used to love but cannot get married to come and meet each other again. Their partners will not be angry or jealous because they understand it is a temporary feeling and will not influence the normal life. For those who have not married yet, the festival gives them a chance to find their partner. Coming here, you will not only get a deeper understanding of Vietnamese ethnic minorities’s culture but also immerse yourself in the lovely melody from local youngsters and take part in many fun and exciting games that you have never seen before.
There are plenty of interesting festivals in Vietnam all year round. Above are just some of them. If your visiting time coincides with any Vietnam festivals, we highly recommend joining them to get closer with local customs and conditions.