9 of the best festivals in Vietnam

The Southeast Asian nation of Vietnam has plenty of colourful celebrations and holidays to write home about. Here are 9 of the best festivals in Vietnam.
  Preparing altar with foods for the last meal of year- Tat Nien during Tet. Photo: Vietnam Stock Images/Shutterstock
Preparing altar with foods for the last meal of year- Tat Nien during Tet. Photo: Vietnam Stock Images/Shutterstock

The Southeast Asian nation of Vietnam has plenty of colourful celebrations and holidays to write home about. Here are 9 of the best festivals in Vietnam.

Vietnam – a long, skinny country in Southeast Asia, resembling the letter “S” – hosts a riot of festivals. Buddhism is the most popular religion here and many festivals have a spiritual flavour; others are distinctly Chinese in origin. Most take place in the spring, though festivals are well represented in autumn too, and that’s without even mentioning “Tet”, the spirited celebrations that usher in the new year in January or February. Here are the 9 best festivals in Vietnam to get excited about.

1. Tet

Date in 2021: 12 February

Tet – which actually just means “festival” in Vietnamese – sees in the new year with the country’s biggest celebrations. It lasts for a full seven days, when families travel across Vietnam to be together and invite the spirits of their ancestors back into their households, while firework displays crackle across the nation’s skies. Here, birthdays are rarely celebrated and age is calculated by how many new years you’ve seen: in Vietnam, everyone becomes a year older during Tet. The sense of excitement is palpable.


2. Lim Festival

Date in 2021: 15 February

Anyone with a musical ear should make for Lim, a village in the Red River Delta, for the impassioned singing of its residents during Lim Festival. In an idiosyncratic spectacle, men and women practice “alternate singing” or quan ho. Dressing the part in traditional getup, the groups exchange folk songs from aboard dragon boats and from Lim Pagoda.

Colourful lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam. Photo: JomNicha/Shutterstock

3. Hoi An Full Moon Festival

Dates in 2021: Every 14th of the lunar month: 26 January, 25 February, 26 March, 25 April, 25 May, 23 June, 23 July, 21 August, 20 September, 19 October, 18 November, 17 December

The Vietnamese coastal city of Hoi An exudes old-world charm and we challenge you not to fall a little bit in love with it. It’s a melting pot of architectural delights, from its wooden-fronted shophouses to handsome French colonial buildings with dangled lanterns from colourful facades. But the city is perhaps best known for its celebrations on the eve of every moon, when traffic grinds to a halt and traditional dance, music and games take over the city streets. Under the glow of multihued lanterns, you’ll see Chinese opera, hear the singers of eerie, traditional melodies and indulge in some of Vietnam’s most tantalising food. And the good news is that Hoi An puts on the show every month, so you should be able to time your trip to coincide with the festivities.

4. Hué Festival

Date in 2021: Held biennially, next date in 2022 (usually April, May or June)

Once the imperial capital, Hué retains a certain gravitas, with its opulent palace buildings and pristine sculpted garden. Traditionally viewed by the rest of Vietnam as highbrow, Hué is home to a vibrant community of intellectuals, poets, scholars and students. With all its history and cachet, it comes as no surprise that the city’s biennial festival is something of a showstopper. The usual line up of dance and musical items are joined by an impressive roster of theatre, puppetry and acrobatics. You’ll not be disappointed.

Traditional Vietnamese water puppet show. Photo: Danny Iacob/Shutterstock

5. Hung Festival

Date in 2021: 21 April

Celebrating the conception of the nation’s first kings, the Hung Vuong, Hung Festival revolves around the temple bearing the same name. The government made the day a national holiday in 2007; today, revellers come from far and wide to light incense, beat bronze drums and make their offerings. Traditional Vietnamese operas and sword dances complete the picture.

According to legend, the Hung Buong were the children of a sea dragon and his mountain princess. Hatching from one hundred eggs, half of the sons returned with their father to swim the oceans; the rest remained with their mother on land and started the dynasty.

6. Mid-Autumn Festival

Date in 2021: 6 September

The Mid-Autumn Festival – Trung Thu or Children’s Day – looms large in the popular imagination, with its shaggy lion dancers and enchanting lantern parades. Children are traditionally showered with gifts – sweets, toys and lanterns in the shape of dragons, carps and stars. Sticky rice cakes – banh trung thu – are the order of the day, filled with nuts, lotus seeds and candied fruits, either in the shape of the earth or moon. Eat your heart out.

Sticky rice cakes - banh trung thu. Photo: Moon Le/Shutterstock

7. Independence Day

Date in 2021: 2 September

All the country seems to be swathed in red on Independence Day, when the national flag is hung from alleyways the length and breadth of the country. As World War II wrapped up, Japanese occupation in Vietnam came to an end, leaving a power vacuum despite nominal French influence. On 2 September 1945, a defiant Ho Chi Minh declared independence from colonial France under a new name: the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Today, this date is celebrated with much pomp and flag-waving, with processions in the major cities and sizzling firework displays.

8. Day of Wandering Souls

Date: 15th day of the 7th lunar month

The Day of Wandering Souls is a major festival in Vietnam. According to Vietnamese belief, it’s on this day that the souls of the dead return to earth. Their living ancestors make offerings of food, clothes, flowers and even paper money to help nourish, comfort and furnish their relative’s spirits in the afterlife. Around Vietnam, religious services and ceremonies take place inside homes, temples and out in the open air: the spirituality is tangible.  

In a Vietnamese temple. Photo: Jarous/Shutterstock

9. Perfume Pagoda Festival

Date in 2021: 17 February

Centred around the country’s most revered pilgrimage site, Chua Huong, the Perfume Pagoda Festival sees thousands of Buddhist devotees flock here to visit its sacred caves and shrines. The journey to the site is spectacular in itself, winding through rice paddies, looming limestone karsts and slick rivers. Watching the spectacle is a one-in-a-lifetime gig, when streams of pilgrims make a wish for the coming year.