Updated April 2023
Right across the globe, many countries, including Vietnam, have marked their severing of colonial ties with an Independence Day. However, there is another day of equal historical and political significance in Vietnamese history known as Reunification Day, Liberation Day or Victory Day. Find everything you need to know about this Vietnamese national holiday with our guide below.
What is Reunification Day?
Also known as Liberation Day or Victory Day, this nationally-recognized day, April 30th, acknowledges the pivotal moment when the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North) and the Republic of Vietnam (South) were reunited together under one, united government.
A ‘temporary’ partition between North and South had been created after the defeat of the French in 1954 – a divide that was to be resolved by a national election. Years of rivalry and turmoil involving intrusive ‘cold war’ interference followed instead, culminating in the American-Vietnam War.
Vietnam’s Reunification Day also marks the end of the American-Vietnam War and the fall of the Saigon government as well as the unification of North and South.
Following three decades of struggle to become an independent, unified nation (1945-1975), Reunification Day or Liberation Day has emerged as a deserved source of pride and nationalism for Vietnamese people.
When is Reunification Day?
This momentous moment occurred on April 30th, 1975. Therefore, Reunification Day in Vietnam takes place on April 30th every year.
Historical Background to Reunification Day (Liberation Day)
In the years immediately following World War II France attempted to re-establish its colonial control in Vietnam. The Vietnamese monarchy had collapsed and on September 2, 1945, Viet Minh leader, Ho Chi Minh, declared Vietnam an independent republic.
The Viet Minh also went on to win Vietnam’s first National Assembly election in 1946, but France didn’t want to relinquish its various interests in the region. By 1947 ‘negotiations’ broke down and full-scale war ensued.
Confronted with a cocktail of competing non-communist factions, and the Viet Minh’s direct support from Chinese communists, France (and later the US and the UK) supported the exiled Emperor, Bao Dai as she prosecuted the war. But by 7 May, 1954, the French were forced to concede defeat.
The Geneva Accord followed two months later ousting the French but Vietnam was partitioned between North and South, pending democratic elections due in 1956 as part of the deal.
But agreement was never reached between the North and South on how these should be conducted. By the early 60s instability in South Vietnam led to its erratic leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, falling following an army-led coup (with CIA backing).
Fanned by communist cadres, even greater instability followed in the South and the US intervened directly in 1965 by sending troops and bombing North Vietnam.
The fall of Saigon government ten years later on 30 April, 1975 – or its liberation by North Vietnamese troops depending on how you look at it – marked not just the end of the American-Vietnam War with the North victorious, but the beginning of the reunification process between North and South Vietnam.
Vietnam officially became a socialist republic on July 2, 1976, following the merger of North and South Vietnam. Prior to this, North Vietnam had been a socialist state since its establishment in 1945, while South Vietnam had been a capitalist republic backed by the United States.
Thus, the victory of the North Vietnamese troops in the American-Vietnam War on 30 April, 1975 led to the reunification of the country under the leadership of the Vietnam Communist Party, which declared the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the following year.
How is Reunification Day Celebrated?
This holiday is a particularly patriotic one due to its importance in shaping peaceful, modern-day Vietnam. As it is a national public holiday, banks and government departments close down, but shops remain open, and as it falls the day before Labour Day, families take the time to visit each other and spend time together over what is effectively a long weekend.
Reunification Day in Hanoi
Reunification Day is celebrated in the capital city of Hanoi with various cultural and patriotic activities. People often gather to watch parades, exhibitions, and fireworks displays.
The largest parade in Hanoi takes place at Ba Dinh Square, where the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located. The parade typically features military marches, band performances, and traditional cultural dances. At night, there may be a spectacular fireworks display over Hoan Kiem Lake or other locations throughout the city.
Many people also visit historical sites and monuments that played a significant role in Vietnam’s liberation, such as the Ho Chi Minh Museum or the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ during the war.
Additionally, cultural events may take place throughout the city, showcasing Vietnamese traditions and arts, such as water puppet shows and street performances.
Reunification Day in Ho Chi Minh City
As in Hanoi, people in Ho Chi Minh City typically gather to watch parades, exhibitions, and fireworks displays. The largest parade in Ho Chi Minh City takes place at Reunification Palace, which was the site of the official handover of power from the South Vietnamese government to the North Vietnamese army in 1975.
The parade typically features military marches, band performances, and cultural dances. At night, there may be a spectacular fireworks display over the Saigon River or other iconic locations throughout the city.
Many people also visit historical sites and monuments that played a significant role in Vietnam’s liberation, such as the War Remnants Museum or the Cu Chi Tunnels, where North Vietnamese soldiers lived and fought during the war.
Reunification Day Throughout Vietnam
Tourist attractions and major cities become a bit more chaotic, and the national holiday is also typically marked by the singing of patriotic songs, the display of Vietnamese flags in front of households and businesses across the nation, and the reciting of poems and speeches that celebrate the country’s independence and unity.
Traditionally, boat races, fireworks and food events take place in many areas across Vietnam. If you are in Hoi An during this time, you may encounter some simple public celebrations, or you can travel to the nearby metropolis Da Nang for a bigger party.