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5 Best Festivals in Vietnam to Celebrate with Locals

Vietnam is a diverse country with a captivating landscape and an enchanting culture. The festivals in Vietnam showcase the vibrant heritage of this fascinating country, and how people share a community spirit. Located on the tip of the Indo-China Peninsula, Vietnam is a vibrant country.

The country follows the Georgian calendar for the day to day life, but its festivals and other important events are based on the lunar calendar. That means each year the dates of festivities vary. But, the fun remains the same.

For a memorable trip, remember to plan your holidays during important Vietnamese festivals. Festivals in Vietnam showcases the true spirit of the country and brings out the best of the Vietnamese culture. Planning on visiting Vietnam? Then, plan your trip according to the Vietnamese lunar calendar for an extraordinary soul-stirring experience.     

1. Tet Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year / Vietnamese New Year)

Celebrated during mid-January - February

Tet marks the beginning of the Vietnamese lunar calendar and is probably the most important festival in the country. With festivities lasting close to a week, the people start preparations for the Tet almost two weeks in advance. Houses and offices are cleaned and decorated with festive decorations, elaborate feasts are prepared, gifts are exchanged, and people dress up in new clothes.

In one way, Tet is probably Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year – all rolled into one. Predictably, the travel routes get very busy during the festive season, and you should plan early if you are intending on visiting the country during this time.          

What to eat during Tet?

•    Bánh Chung - Simple rice cake stuffed mung beans and meat.
•    Dried fruits (Ô mai).
•    Caramelized sauce dish (Kho) made from pork, beef, shrimps, or fishes slowly cooked in sauces.

Places to celebrate Tet

Although the entire country celebrates Tet, the cities like Hanoi and Hoh Chi Minh City are a must-visit for tourists during the time of festivities. At Hanoi’s Ngoc Son Temple and Quan Su Pagoda, locals come to pay their respects to gods and their ancestors.    

2. Hoi An Lantern Festival

Hoi An Lantern Festival

Celebrated on 14th day of every month

Probably one of the most beautiful festivals in Vietnam, the Hoi An Lantern Festival turns this picturesque small town into a beautiful sight. Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, transforms into a beautiful lantern-lit city on the 14th of every month (according to the Vietnamese lunar calendar). On this day restaurants and shops turn off their electric lights after dark and light up the area with beautiful paper lanterns.     

The local pagodas host special ceremonies during this time, which give the area a surreal aura and a feeling of enchantment. Also, candlelit lanterns are set into the river for good luck. The first full moon of the Vietnamese lunar year is the most important one and finds maximum participation from the locals.

A place to watch the lantern festival

One of the most desirable places to be during the Hoi An Lantern Festival is the old town quarters. Exploring the candlelit streets of the old quarters of the city is an experience that cannot be defined in words. Additionally, ride the Sampan boats for watching the candlelit city from the bay.   
P.S: Fret not if you cannot make it to Hoi An during the first full moon of the Vietnamese lunar calendar. The lantern festival is held every month, and tourists like you can also take part in it. Just buy a candle from the local seller, and set it off on the river.     

3. Wandering Souls Day / Ghost Festival (Trung Nguyen)

Celebrated on 15th day of the 7th lunar month of the Vietnamese Calendar (Early September)

The Wandering Soul Day is similar to Halloween. According to Buddhism, after death, a person’s soul is sent to either heaven or hell based on their Karma. During the festival, it is believed that the departed souls that land in hell come back to the land of the livings. On the eve of the Ghost Festival, people offer prayers and gifts to these souls. Also, special altars are erected at home with offerings to guide the ancestral spirits.    

Places to visit during Trung Nguyen

Trung Nguyen is one of the important Buddhist festivals in Vietnam. However, the real flavors of this somber festival can be experienced at Hue. During the festivities, the Buddhist shrines and pagodas are flooded with people and monks.

P.S: During the festivities, paper money and clothes are burnt as special offerings. Additionally, butcher shops remain closed during the festival.

4. Perfume Festival

Celebrated – Mid-February / March

The annual Perfume Festival, held at the iconic Perfume Pagoda of Hanoi, is a huge crowd puller. During the festival, people cross the Yen Vi River and climb seek mighty Huong Tich Mountains to reach this iconic pagoda. Throughout the festival, the pilgrims come across traditional performances, colorful parades, and plenty of food offerings.    
P.S: The pilgrimage to Huong Tich Mountains begins with the colorful dragon dance. People can find rare meats like wild pigs, deer, civets, and porcupines being served at local restaurants during the festival.  

5. Phật Đản or Buddha Birthday

Celebrated on 8th day of the 4th Lunar month (approximately mid-April - May) 

The list of festivals in Vietnam could not be complete without mentioning the Phật Đản or Buddha’s Birthday. On the occasion, Buddhist monasteries and pagodas are decorated and adorned with festive decorations including flowers. Devotees of Buddha offer various offerings like flower garlands, sweets, and fruits. Apart from the special ceremonies, colorful parades are organized to mark the occasion.

Places to visit during Phật Đản

Hanoi and Hoh Chi Minh City celebrate the Phật Đản festival with great enthusiasm. Colorful decorations and flags adorn the streets and houses of the city.     

P.S: Lotus flowers and the color pink hold a special significance in the Phật Đản celebrations. During the festivities, locals lit special candles that are set off on the river for good luck. Colorful flags adorn the streets and alleyways.  

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