Hoi An Lantern Festival

Hoi An Guide | Festivals in Vietnam

Updated January 2023

If you are planning a trip to Hoi An but want to decide on a good time to go, consider planning around the Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival. This is an enchanting time to experience Hoi An and is one of the most popular reasons why visitors are drawn to Hoi An.

A schedule for Hoi An Lantern Festival dates can be found at Full Moon Lantern Festival Calendar.

The Full Moon Lantern Festival, or Hoi An Full Moon Festival, is a traditional celebration held each month in Hoi An Ancient Town, Vietnam. Around the time of the full moon, locals and visitors gather shoulder to shoulder to light lanterns and enjoy a spellbinding celebration. This heady mix of music, food, merrymaking, hope and worship is not to be missed.

Child with lanterns at Hoi An Lantern Festival
Child with lanterns at Hoi An Lantern Festival (gerardphotographer.com)

The festival revolves around the full moon, which symbolizes peace and prosperity. During the event, people adorn their homes and streets with colorful lanterns, adding to the festive atmosphere of Hoi An.

The full moon, a sacred time in the Buddhist calendar, also marks a time for reflection and thanksgiving as families pay homage to their ancestors and pray for prosperity, while others simply soak up the coruscating kaleidoscope of Hoi An at night.

But if you’re not in Hoi An at the exact date, remember you can still witness glowing lanterns lighting up the dark streets on most evenings of the year, and even opt to purchase a lantern as a souvenir.

What is the Hoi An Lantern Festival?

For spiritual Buddhist and Confucian Vietnamese, the Lantern Festival, or Hoi An Moon Festival is very important and linked closely to full moon celebrations that have coursed through Vietnamese culture for centuries.

It is a time to meditate, observe rituals and pay respects to ancestors. Offerings are made to family shrines alongside burning incense and lit candles.

The Hoi An Lantern Festival features the mesmerizing spectacle of hundreds of ‘wish candle’ lanterns floating on the Hoai River (as this section of the Thu Bon River is called). Anyone can purchase a candle and set it adrift with a wish or a prayer.

It is also a joyous time with street performers celebrating local culture.


Lighting lanterns as offerings to send to spirits and ancestors is a tradition of Chinese origin. However, in Hoi An, this tradition has morphed into the launching of ‘wish candle’ lanterns en masse on the Hoai River on a full moon – a practice designed mainly for visitors.

Spiritual Significance of the Full Moon in Vietnam

The full moon is an important religious symbol in Vietnam. Full moons are seen as a time for spiritual renewal, unity and prayer. Full Moon celebrations are likely linked to the communion between nature and human beings that’s been celebrated for millennia; a celebration absorbed by the formal religions and traditions like Buddhism and Confucianism.

On full moon nights, temples often open their doors so that people can come together to meditate and offer incense and prayers.

Full moons also signify key points during the lunar cycle, such as harvest time. It is also believed that full moons bring good luck, and consequently full moon festivals like the Hoi An Lantern Festival are a time to rejoice. The full moon is also a symbol of peace, unity and prosperity in Vietnam, and it has been celebrated as such for many generations.

In contrast, Vietnam’s greatest annual celebration, New Year or Tet, marks the new moon of the first month of the lunar calendar (ie the beginning of the lunar new year).

Hoi An Lantern Festival – Origins

Hoi An Old Town has been associated with lanterns for hundreds of years. It is likely that it all started way back in the 1500s when Hoi An was a vibrant international mercantile center. At this time foreign merchants – especially Japanese and Chinese – began hanging lanterns outside their homes and workplaces and the locals imitated them.

Over time lanterns little by little became part of the Hoi An psyche, including the craft of making lanterns, culminating in the lantern-lit wonderland of today.

It’s also true that in 1998 Hoi An’s administrators, with tourism in mind, married the traditional full moon festival with Hoi An’s spectacular lantern-world boosting the number of lanterns in the ancient town.

Around this time the tradition of inviting visitors, domestic and international, to set off ‘wish candle’ lanterns along the river in large numbers also began.

Within a few years Hoi An’s Lantern festival became one of the premier things to do in Hoi An.

Bright colored silk lanterns of all shapes and sizes hang from a souvenir shop ceiling in Hoi An
Lanterns, the symbol of Hoi An, make great gifts and souvenirs

When is the Hoi An Lantern Festival?

Curiously, the Hoi An Lantern Festival is not always celebrated on the night of the full moon. To keep things simple it is always celebrated on the 14th day of the lunar calendar, which is usually just before the full moon.

The exact date of the full moon changes because some lunar months are 29 days while others are 30 days. However, organizers in Hoi An have created uniformity for everyone by holding the festival on the 14th day of the lunar calendar each month, regardless of the full moon’s precise date.

When Does the Hoi An Lantern Festival 2023 Take Place?

A full schedule for Hoi An Lantern Festival dates for 2023 and 2024 can be found at Full Moon Lantern Festival Calendar.

What Time Does the Lantern festival Start and Finish?

The Lantern Festival starts around sundown and winds down between 9 and 10pm. The crowds are coming back post-Covid-19 so to secure a good spot arrive fairly early.

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit the Lantern Festival?

The dry months of February to August offer the best conditions with March and April the standouts, weatherwise. February on the other hand is the first full moon of the lunar calendar and is the biggest celebration of the year as it’s the most auspicious.

Where Does the Hoi An Lantern Festival Take Place?

The Lantern Festival centers on the area near the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Cau An Hoi Bridge in the Ancient Town. The Japanese Bridge is a great photographic subject (Tony King)

The Lantern Festival centers on the area near the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Cau An Hoi Bridge (aka the Lantern Bridge) in the Ancient Town. Crowds spill across to An Hoi Islet and are dense around the Cau An Hoi Bridge itself. The ‘wish lanterns’ and the street performances are most prominent here.

How is the Hoi An Lantern Festival Celebrated?

Around the river in the Old Town, locals sell paper lanterns with candles placed at the bottom for around 50 cents. The tradition is to set your own lantern into the river as an offering to ancestors and the God of the Land.

It is quite magical to see hundreds of lanterns sparkling the river and surroundings. If you are feeling particularly festive, you can even take a short boat ride to experience the lanterns from another point of view or launch your lantern from your boat to avoid the pack.

At the Lantern Festival at 8pm all electric lights are extinguished leaving the fairyland, lantern-lit armada and the soft street lanterns the only light source.

For locals the Hoi An Lantern Festival is also a time to visit temples or set up family shrines, pay respects to ancestors and pray for future prosperity and good fortune (as is every full moon event throughout Vietnam). The fun and color notwithstanding, the lantern festival is a sacred time first and foremost.

Things to Do at Hoi An Lantern Festival

Take a Sampan Ride

Old Town sampans
Hoi An Old Town sampans (Alden Anderson)

A sampan ride on the Hoai River provides a superb vantage point to take in Hoi An Ancient Town at any time, but at Lantern Festival time the Old Town is a spectacular dance of shadow and lantern light. You might need to put your bargaining hat on when negotiating the price – it should be in the vicinity of 100,000VND.

With hundreds of ‘wish candle’ lanterns current-drawn toward the South China Sea, the fairyland scene will make your boat hire well worth it.

Sample Local Street Food

Along the river street stalls are set up with an array of vegetarian, pork dishes and local specialties like banh bao (dumplings with mushroom and pork), moon cakes (pastries with sweet red bean paste) and banh xoai (mango cake).

See Hoi An Street Food for a more comprehensive list.

Check Out the Street Performers

One of the most popular performances is Bai Choi, a combination of music, poetry and theater that celebrates traditional life in the local area.

Traditional music is also performed often with bamboo flutes, drums, fiddles and folk singers. Poetry readings fill the air too and street food stalls are punctuated by locals playing Chinese chess.

Chinese Chess game at the Hoi An Lantern festival
Chinese Chess game at the Hoi An Lantern festival (Tony King)

Take Photos

With massed crowds, spectacular lanterns, street performers and the frolicking lights on the river at the Hoi An Lantern Festival bring your camera!

It’s also an opportunity to record some of the local icons like the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Chinese Assembly Halls and the Old Houses in medieval lighting conditions.

Visit a Temple

There’s a special atmosphere at full moon in the temples and they are well worth visiting at this time. Try Quan Cong Pagoda or the temples in the Chinese Assembly Halls to witness the deeply spiritual side of the Hoi An Lantern Festival.

Consistent with themes of new beginnings and renewal it is believed that Buddha was born and received enlightenment on a full moon.

Launch a ‘Wish Candle’

For just 50 cents you can participate in the spectacle and launch you own floating lantern on the Hoai River. And you never know, your wish made in this Hoi An fantasia may come true!

The sight of hundreds of small lanterns floating current-drawn down river at the Hoi An Lantern Festival is remarkably peaceful and soul soothing. And it’s fabulous to be part of it.

Buy a Lantern

What could be a better souvenir than a lantern to mark your time at the Hoi An Lantern Festival? Hoi An lanterns, usually made of cloth or silk, are more durable and attractive than those made of nylon and paper elsewhere in East Asia, and are quite inexpensive.

If you are in Hoi An long enough you could also consider making your own lantern at one of the many lantern workshops available.

Hoi An Lantern Festival – The Wash Up

If you are coming to Hoi An we recommend you plan your trip to coincide with the Hoi An Lantern Festival held along the river in Hoi An Ancient Town.

In general, the best time to visit these monthly full moon celebrations is during the drier months – February to August. The full moon in February is the most auspicious as it’s the first full moon of the lunar new year.

This festival in Hoi An serves up a fascinating mix of cultural performance, devout worship, boat trips and street food in a fairyland setting that is both wonderfully calming and vibrantly colorful and alive.

Written By
Stuart Neal

Former publisher at ABC Books and Consultant Publisher at Allen & Unwin in Australia, Stuart Neal is co-founder of the travel website, Hoi An Now.

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