After Tet, the Hung Kings Festival is also one Vietnam’s largest celebrations. It is well known for being the death anniversary of the Hung Kings. This holiday is especially related to Vietnam’s ancient history. The 18 Hung Kings were part of the Hong Bang dynasty (2879-258 BC) and the earliest references to the Hung Kings were found in early collections of myths and legends.
They are hailed for setting the foundations of Vietnamese civilization and shaping Vietnam’s identity with their methods of farming and hunting. These kings taught people how to grow wet rice, and pray for good harvests. As a result, celebrating this history acknowledges how far Vietnamese people have come. Many believe nowadays that the Hung Kings were ‘invented’ in the middle ages to make Vietnam’s beginnings distinct from that of China. Whatever the case, it is clear that these first written versions nevertheless drew heavily on existing myth and folklore.
When is Hung Kings’ Festival?
This festival takes place from the 8th to the 11th of the third lunar month every year, so it always changes. The main festival date is the 10th day of the month and is recognized as a public holiday throughout Vietnam. In 2020 it was 2 April and in 2021 it will be 22nd April.
How do People Celebrate?
Throughout the festival, there are events taking place across the 1,400 Hung King temples around Vietnam with the main ceremony at Phu Tho temple, 85km northwest of Hanoi. Millions of people take offerings and make the trip to Nghia Linh Mountain. Locals from nearby villages, families and government representatives make the procession up the mountain together, stopping at each worship site until reaching the highest temple. Additional festivities include music, rice cooking competitions and dragon dancing.
Food at Hung Kings’ Festival
Food is an integral part of the customs taking place during Hung Kings’ Festival because it is a symbolic sacrificial offering to the Hung Kings. People bring traditional dishes such as banh giay (crushed sticky rice pudding), and banh chung (sticky rice cake).