Vietnam has a huge number of festivals. Listing all of them under one group is not possible. Many festivals (in different areas) are the same as other festivals in other areas, but are known by different names and/or are celebrated at different times. Below you will find some of the more important ones.
Festivals are good places to learn about various crafts and customs of the area in which they are held. For example, the Master Pagoda Festival (HaTay) has puppet shows, the Hung Temple Festival (Vinh Phu) features Xoan folk songs, the Phu Giay Festival has Chau Van folk songs and the Lim Festival has Quan Ho folk songs.
Other festivals feature games and contests, such as rowing, rope pulling or climbing, wrestling, rice cooking or chess. There are also competitions between animals such as buffalo and cockfights or pigeon races.
Note: Some events are linked to the Western calendar, but others follow the lunar calendar.
Main Holidays & Festivals (Official Public Holidays)
1 January: New Year.
1 January L.M: Lunar New Year.
3 February: The Foundation of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
30 April: The Liberation of South Vietnam.
1 May: International Labor.
14 May: Buddha’s Birthday
19 May: Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday
2 September: National Day of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
25 December: Christmas Day.
Popular Culture Festivals
2 January L.M: Lieu Doi Festival (Ha Nam Ninh).
5 January L.M: Dong Da Festival (Hanoi).
10 January L.M: Elephant Race Day, M’nong Ethnic Minority’s help in central highland.
13 January L.M: Lim Festival (Ha Bac) “Quan Ho” Folk song contest.
15 January L.M: Spring Festival on Ba Den Mountain (Tay Ninh).
10 March L.M: “Hung” Temple Festival (Vinh Phu).
9 April L.M: “Giong” Festival Performing Day (Hanoi).
26 April L.M: “Chua Xu” Festival “Chau Doc”.
16 June L.M: Greeting “Mr. Whale” Festival (Tien Giang & Ben Tre).
26 August L.M: Greeting “Mr. Whale” Festival (Can Gio & Duyen Hai).
30 July L.M: “Lang Ong” Festival (HCMC), Le Van Duyet’s Anniversary old-age Worshipping.
9 August L.M: Buffalo fighting festival (Do Son & Hai Phong) and “Tran Hung Dao” Festival at Tran Hung Dao Temple.
DESCRIPTION OF SOME HOLIDAYS CELEBRATED THROUGHOUT VIETNAM
(Western) NEW YEAR'S DAY January 1 Fireworks, dancing, feasting and general revelry abound in this colourful New Year celebration.
TET (TET NGUYEN DAN) Late January/early February is the most important Vietnamese annual festival. This marks the new lunar year and the advent of spring. This is a three-day holiday, usually at the end of January or the beginning of February (according to the solar calendar).
Preparations include clay trees to ward off evil spirits and lime dust spread around the house to gain additional protection from Buddha. People prepare food, a robe and boots to appease the Tao Quan, the gods of the earth. On the evening of New Year, fireworks, drums and gongs frighten away the devil Na A and his wife.
The following lunar New Years are: 12 Feb 2002, 1 Feb 2003, 22 Jan 2004, 9 Feb 2005, 29 Jan 2006
ANNIVERSARY OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY IN VIETNAM February 3
THANH MINH (worship and renovation of the dwellings of the dead) April 5 and 20
LIBERATION DAY April 30th is the day on which Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) fell to Hanoi in 1975. This holiday is commemorated nationwide.
MAY DAY May 1 (Labour Day) Celebrated throughout the country, parades, feasts and fireworks go hand in hand.
BIRTHDAY OF PRESIDENT HO CHI MINH May 19th This is another good time to party.
TRUNG NGUYEN (Feast of the Wandering Souls and Hungry Ghosts) August/September (Full-moon of the seventh lunar month) Vietnamese All-Souls' Day. Food is laid out in temples to feed the hungry ghosts that wander the earth for one day. Burning paper money supports the praying for absolution.
NATIONAL DAY OF VIETNAM September 2 Celebrated with parades, dances, fireworks and music. This is a photographers delight.
MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL September/October (15th day of the eighth lunar month) This festival is especially dedicated to children, but adults also take part. The children sing, dance and parade with lanterns shaped as stars, the moon or animals.
CALENDAR OF SOME FESTIVALS OF ETHNICAL MINORITIES IN VIETNAM
THE LONG TONG FESTIVAL third day of the Lunar New Year until the end of January is celebrated by the Tay ethnic group. It involves religious ceremonies in honour of Geniuses and of persons credited with building their first settlements and various games, including the "luon" song performances and the lion dance.
THE "SEC BUA" FESTIVAL prior to the Lunar New Year's Day It is a time-honoured custom of the Muong ethnic group to organise. "Phuong bua" teams visit households in the village and sing congratulatory songs on the occasion of the New Year's Day. The songs, which are accompanied by gongs and cymbals, later shift from congratulations to "rang" songs and "bo meng" songs (dialogue songs).
THE SEN BAN, SEN MUONG FESTIVAL Is usually held by the Thai ethnic group in February (lunar calendar) to express best wishes to their own villages and districts. The festival involves processions, religious ceremonies, a contest in shooting firearms and crossbows and a contest in "con" ball throwing.
THE "CA TE" FESTIVAL July Is held by the Cham ethnic group. The festival involves visiting and taking care of tombs and visiting pagodas and stoops to express thanks to the Geniuses with song and dance performances.
THE BUFFALO SLAUGHTERING FESTIVAL Early Spring The Bahnar ethnic group thank the Geniuses for good harvests and good health. Buffaloes are slaughtered as offerings to the latter. The festival also involves a shield dance, javelin throwing, slick fights, dances and feasts of roasted buffalo meat with liquor drunk through bamboo tubes from a jar.
THE "LEAVING THE TOMB" FESTIVAL Ethnic groups dwelling in the High Plateaux do not observe the anniversary of the death of their parents and relatives but visit the tombs frequently and hold ceremonies there for a period of 4-5 years and thereafter leave them forever. The "Leaving the tomb" festival is a big festival, involving mainly dances and songs.
THE "CHOM CHO NAN THO MAY" OR KHMER NEW YEAR DAY FESTIVAL April Usually held by the Khmer ethnic group of South Vietnam at the beginning of the New Year's Day of the Khmer calendar. It involves visits to and ceremonies in pagodas, kite flying, dance and song performances as well as "du-ke" theatrical plays.
THE KHMER "THANKS GIVING TO THE MOON AND BOAT COMPETITION" FESTIVAL 15th of October This festival is held by the Khmer ethnic group in South Vietnam and involves ceremonies with fried rice as offerings and a boating competition.
THE "KIM KHAU MO" FESTIVAL October (also called the Lau phua, Lau Man) Held by the Kho Mu and Xinh Mun ethnic groups, Son La province is to welcome newly produced rice and involves arts performances.
CHRISTMAS DAY December Held throughout the country wherever Christianity is practiced.
There are literally hundreds of festivals throughout Vietnam therefore to list each and every one of them would be a mammoth task. It is therefore advised that you ask your hotel concierge or at the local tourism office on arrival for more details.