One of the best ways to soak up the vibrant culture of Vietnam is to take part in one of their festivals. There are lots of cultural festivals that are being celebrated in the country each year and they are truly a joy to watch. Witnessing local festivals in Vietnam is such a great experience and something that you will never forget.
Most of the major festivals in Vietnam take place at the start of the year. And while the country is usually very busy during this time, it is still the perfect time to experience the country in all its might. So here’s a list of some of the best festivals in Vietnam that you should check out during your trip to the country.
1. Tet Holiday
The Tet New Year is definitely the most significant festival in Vietnam and the grandest as well. It’s similar to the Thanksgiving or Christmas celebration in the US where almost everyone would celebrate. During this time, families would gather around to celebrate with their loved ones.
The date of the Tet New Year would vary, but it’s usually around the end of January or the middle of February. If you happen to be in the country during this time, you’ll notice that the entire country is in the festive mood. There will be rituals taking place during the day and locals can be seen giving flowers and lighting incense candles. Around the evening, the entire country comes alive and grand fireworks would light up the sky.
2. Buddha’s Birthday (Vesak)
Vietnam’s main religion is Buddhism and this is why the birthday of Buddha is a major event in the country. Known locally as Vesak, devotees from around the country would visit local temples to worship and offer prayers during this festival. You’ll find temples adorned with colorful decorations, including flower garlands and different kinds of fruits, which will serve as an offering.
Buddha’s birthday takes place around the 8th day of the fourth Lunar month, or around the months of April or May. During the celebration, some monks will give speeches and would lead prayers. Devotees would reflect on their lives and would light incense as a form of worship. In some major cities like Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh, and Hanoi, parades will be held led by monks.
3. Hoi An Lantern Festival
Taking place in the beautiful town of Hoi An, the Hoi An Lantern Festival draws thousands of local and International tourists to the town each year. This festival takes place in the first week of February every year. During this time, Hoi An will be transformed into a magical town where thousands of colorful sparkling lanterns would light the streets.
When evening comes, locals would flock to the riverbanks and place lighted lanterns into the river as an offering and as a way of worshipping their ancestors. It’s such a fun festival to witness. So if you’re planning to visit Hoi An soon, try to schedule your visit during this time of the year.
4. Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the grandest festivals being celebrated in Vietnam that takes place around the 14th to the 15th day of the Lunar month, which is usually around the middle of September. This is a very entertaining event where local kids and adults would gather around to take part in some fun activities.
When nighttime comes, colorful lanterns will be lit, and the surroundings will look very bright and colorful. The event is also considered a harvest festival and it is this time where locals would give thanks to a bountiful harvest. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a local home, you’ll be served with jellies, cakes, and lots of sweets!
5. Perfume Pagoda Festival
The Perfume Pagoda Festival is another popular festival in Vietnam that’s celebrated by a lot of locals. Perfume Pagoda is actually a famous pilgrimage site built in the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich Mountains, just outside of Hanoi.
Each year, Buddhist pilgrims would head to the temple by taking a boat across the Yen Vi River. They would need to climb hundreds of steps going to the top where pagodas and temples can be found. You can also visit the place during this time to witness traditional performances, parades, religious rituals, and sample local foods.
6. Wandering Souls Day
Also known as Trung Nguyen or the Ghost Festival, the Wandering Souls Day is another local festival that’s worth checking out in Vietnam. This is another Buddhist celebration, which centers on the belief that a dead person’s soul goes either goes to heaven or hell. During the festival, sinful souls who are said to have gone to hell could go back to their home on Earth for absolution. Thus, families would head to the temple to give offerings for these souls to be guided into the right path.
During the festival, you’ll witness monks and local families praying earnestly at the temples. The Wandering Souls Day takes place around September and a truly unique festival to witness while in Vietnam.