Visiting during a festival in Vietnam is a perfect way experience the country’s culture, traditions and history first-hand. Below you’ll find an overview of all the major Vietnamese festivals and public holidays, with a special focus on Hoi An and Central Vietnam. Specific dates may change depending on the year, so bear this in mind if you’re planning your trip around a particular Vietnamese celebration.
Public Holidays in Vietnam
When compared to the Western calendar, there aren’t too many public holidays in Vietnam. The lunar new year of Tet is by far the most important Vietnam festival as well as the longest holiday, with other observed-breaks just lasting for a day only.
Tet (Vietnamese New Year)
Tet is filled with ceremony, tradition, gift-giving, and special food. Tet festivities celebrate family, friends, teachers, ancestors and the coming of the new year in the hope of bringing good luck. It’s a beautiful time of year with the streets full of colourful flowers, but visitors should note that lots of places may close over Tet week, although most hotels continue their service as normal. See Tet Holiday in Vietnam.
Hùng Kings’ Festival
Vietnamese legend has it that the Hùng Kings – the sons of the Dragon Lac and the Fairy Âu Cơ – were the founders of Vietnam, ruling over an ancient realm whose descendants went on to become the Vietnamese people. Hùng Kings’ Festival celebrates these mythical rulers, honoring the traditional heritage, customs, and values of Vietnam. See Hung Kings’ Festival.
International New Year
January 1st is also a day of celebration in Vietnam, ushering in the New Year as it is celebrated internationally. This tradition started during the period of French Colonization when use of the Western Gregorian calendar began.
Reunification Day Holiday
Reunification Day (also called Liberation or Victory Day) is a public holiday celebrated on April 30th and marks the capture of Saigon by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces in 1976. This signaled the end of the American War and the transition towards national reunification into the modern-day Socialist Republic of Vietnam. See Reunification Day Vietnam.
Labor Day in Vietnam is the first of May – the day directly after Reunification Day. Many take Labor Day as an opportunity to travel and visit relatives, friends, and their hometowns – especially when Labor Day and Reunification Day fall adjacent to a weekend, as they combine to form a four-day break from work and school.
National Day on September 2nd is a celebration of national heritage, culture, tradition, and history for the Vietnamese, and involves parades, fireworks, and patriotic speeches across all of the nation’s major cities. National Day celebrates Vietnam’s independence from France in 1945. See Vietnam National Day.
Hoi An Festivals
Being on the river and close to the sea, Hoi An is a beautiful setting for several festivals in Vietnam, and many of these are based around the water.
Hoi An Lantern Festival
The Lantern Festival, also called the Full Moon Festival, is a monthly event held in Hoi An every full moon. On the night of the festival, lanterns are lit and placed on the stretch of river between the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Cau An Hoi Bridge, where they float on as an offering to ancestors and a hope for bringing good fortune, health, and happiness. See Hoi An Lantern Festival.
Hoi An International Food Festival
The first Hoi An International Food Festival was in 2016. Since then, Hoi An has been crowned Vietnam’s Capital of Culinary Arts by the World Association of Chefs, and the festival has continued to grow. Each year, chefs from across the world gather in Hoi An for a four-day celebration of Vietnamese cuisine.
Hoi An Boat Racing Festival
This festival is held each year on the 2nd day of the first lunar month. It ushers in cheerful moods and excitement for the coming spring and is an opportunity for communities to display teamwork and collective strength. When competing, boats are decoratively adorned with Chinese dragon heads and tails, and paddlers propel the boat forward to the beat of a drum. The races, while they can get quite competitive, also serve the purpose of honorary rituals for the Water God.
The Bong Bridge Festival
The Bong Bridge Festival is unique to Hoi An – in particular, to Hoi An’s Tra Que Village – and occurs annually on the 7th day of the first lunar month. The inhabitants of Tra Que Village have been growing vegetables and herbs using traditional, organic methods for three hundred years. The festival is in commemoration of ancestors and in hope of a bountiful harvest.
International Choir Competition
Since 2011, Hoi An authorities regularly collaborate with INTERKULTUR to organize an International Choir Competition in the Old Town of Hoi An. The event is biannual and will be hosted again in 2021.
The festival is an occasion for choirs all around the world to gather in Vietnam and challenge each other. The dates and programme of the event are different each year and all the relative information can be found here.
Fish festivals are celebrated throughout the many coastal fishing villages in Central Vietnam. In the Phuoc Trach area around Cua Dai beach, a three-day festival takes place in the second lunar month.
The first two days involve ceremonies, sacrifices, and offerings venerating the Fish God, as well as prayers for good catches in the fishing season to come.
The third day involves traditional games such as boat racing, singing and dancing. It’s an opportunity for community-members and others to meet, talk, share expertise and wish each other good fortune.
Other Big Vietnamese Festivals
Find some of the biggest nationwide festivals in Vietnam below.
The mid-autumn festival is one of the most popular Vietnamese festivals. Originally, the festival, which dates back 4000 years, marked the end of the rice harvest in the Red River Delta. Due to their hard work, parents had little time to spend with their children during the harvest, so the festival celebrated the end of the rice harvest as a chance to spend time with one’s own family, honour the moon, and celebrate a good yield.
During the celebration, children carry lanterns and receive Banh Trung Thu – moon cakes – from their parents. Lion dancing and dragon dancing takes place along every street and children enter shops and houses as they dance to bring good luck and drive away evil spirits. See Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam.
Hungry Ghost Festival
Also known as Wandering Souls’ Day, the Hungry Ghost Festival is one of many important religious Vietnamese festivals. This celebration falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month and is an event associated with the annual wandering of the souls of ancestors. Both Taoists and Buddhists believe that the gates of Heaven and Hell are open during the 7th lunar month and that the deceased come visit the living. See Hungry Ghost Festival.
On Vesak Day, Buddhists around the world celebrate Vesak, the festival commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and passing away. In Vietnam, the holiday is celebrated on the 5th day of the 4th solar month and given that much of the Vietnamese population is Buddhist, it’s one of the most important religious Vietnamese festivals. See Buddha’s Birthday Festival.
Although Vietnam is a predominantly Buddhist country, around 10% of the Vietnamese population is Christian. Christmas is not an official public holiday in Vietnam, but it’s celebrated both by Christian observers and many Vietnamese people.
During December, lights decorations and garlands are set up in many metropolitan Vietnamese hubs and all the major Christian churches recreate a nativity scene for everyone to see. On Christmas Eve, which in Vietnam is regarded as more important than Christmas day, observers attend a Midnight Mass and then gather with family and friends to pray and celebrate. See Christmas.
Aside from the International Women’s Day on March 8th, Vietnam also celebrates its National Women’s Day on October 20th. On this occasion, Vietnamese people show their love and respect for women.
The origin of this celebration dates back to 1930. On October 20th 1930, The Vietnam Women’s Union, defending the legal and legitimate rights and interests of Women in Vietnam, was officially established. The Communist Party decided therefore that the 20th of October of each year would represent the day when women all around Vietnam are honored and celebrated. See Women’s Day in Vietnam.
Regional Vietnamese Festivals
If you’re travelling around the centre as part of your trip, you can find some great Vietnamese festivals in Da Nang and Hue as well as Hoi An.
Da Nang Fireworks Festival
First held in 2008, the Da Nang International Fireworks Festival (DIFF) is an annual international fireworks competition held in Da Nang. Every year, world-class teams from eight countries compete, culminating in a final pyrotechnic extravaganza between the two best-performing teams.
Hue Festival is a week-long cultural event held every two years in the city of Hue, usually in April, May, or June. First held in 2000, and on even-numbered years thereafter, the festival honors the important historical and cultural value of Vietnam’s former capital city.
Festivities over the course of the week include fireworks shows, traditional games, music concerts, artistic performances, and exhibitions of poetry, history, and film among an abundance of other events enjoyed by domestic and international visitors alike. See Hue Festival.
Hue Hon Chen Temple Festival
This festival takes place twice a year – in the third lunar month for the spring ritual ceremony, and in the seventh lunar month for the autumn one. The ceremonies are organized at Hon Chen Temple, 10km west of Hue.
The festival is a sequence of fascinating religious rituals in honor of worshipped gods, including a bright boat procession in honor of Mother Thien Y A Na, a Vietnamese goddess. The Perfume River also sees a performance recalling imperial princesses and princes from the Nguyen Dynasty.
Calendar of Regional Festivals & Public Holidays
The following calendar is intended as a guide only – many festivals change their month yearly due to being fixed to the Lunar Calendar. Also, don’t forget the Hoi An Lantern Festival, which takes place every month around the 14th!
|International New Year, Tet, Hoi An Boat Racing|
|Hoi An Bong Bridge Festival,|
|Hung Kings, Fish Festival, Hue Hon Chen Temple Festival|
|Reunification Day, Hue Festival, Hoi An Int Food Festival, Hung Kings’ Festival|
|Labor Day, Buddha’s Birthday|
|Nha Trang Sea Festival|
|Da Nang International Fireworks Festival|
|Hungry Ghost Festival|
|Mid-Autumn Festival, Vietnam Women’s Day|
|Birthday of Confucius|
|Christmas, Da Lat Flower Festival|