The Best Hanoi Festivals Each Year
Vietnam’s festivals follow the Chinese lunar calendar, which is greatly impacted by the country’s history as a Chinese vassal state in the Southeast Asian region. Since the Gregorian calendar is flexible, many of the holidays listed below can be moved around but the dates listed below are fixed in relation to the lunar calendar.
There are a few holidays that are observed across the country but certain regions have their own distinctive celebrations, so we’ve included those as well.
Tet Nguyen Dan – ‘Tet’
The major event in Hanoi which is enjoyed by both locals and tourists each year is the Tet Nguyen Dan, simply called The Tet by most people. This celebration takes place at the beginning of January or the end of February, marking the beginning of the New Year by the lunar calendar.
It is a multi-day celebration which focuses on the gathering of family and friends but also includes much entertainment and festivities.
Other annual events which are of importance to the people of Hanoi include:
Co Loa Festival is a parade through several locations in Hanoi and includes interesting sights such as wrestling and cockfighting. This usually takes place in Februrary.
Keo Pagoda Festival, taking place in autumn, is a three day festival with music, boat races and other activities.
Le Mat Festival is a parade on the water which occurs early each spring.
Mid-autumn festival is a street fair geared towards children but enjoyed by all.
It should be noted that most festivals begin on the evening of the date which is listed as their start date and continue on for several days beyond that.
Monthly: Hoi An Full Moon Festival
For one day each lunar month, Hoi An’s historic old town puts on a major display of Vietnamese arts from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Chinese opera, Chinese chess, and of course, the region’s world-famous cuisine, by banning all motorised traffic.
Lanterns are strung from storefront windows and the small old streets (including the old Japanese bridge, pictured to the left) become festooned with brilliant colours and the haunting notes of traditional music.
There is no need for a ticket to enter Hoi An’s old attractions for the night. At the Full Moon Festival, villagers visit the temples to remember their ancestors and pray for good fortune.
Biennial: Hue Festival
Annually, Hue’s former imperial capital hosts a week-long festival called the Hue Festival that brings together all of the city’s best traditions.
Although most of the events take place on the grounds of the Hue Citadel, theatre, puppetry, music, and acrobatics take place in other parts of town.
February: Lim Festival
Visitors flock to Bac Ninh province’s Lim Hill on the 13th day of the first lunar month to see performances of “quan ho,” traditional melodies sung by men and women alike from boats and the Lim Pagoda.
Greetings, love notes, and even village gates are among the topics covered in the songs. Located just twenty minutes away from Hanoi, Bac Ninh is a great place to visit after seeing the city’s must-see attractions.
On the 13th day of the first lunar month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the Lim Festival occurs.
Every year, tens of thousands of Vietnamese Buddhists make their way to the Perfume Pagoda to pray for a good and happy new year.
It is during the Perfume Pagoda Festival that the number of pilgrims swells to unprecedented proportions, as thousands of people make their way to the sacred caves by boat, passing through rice paddies and limestone mountains before making their way on foot past historical shrines and ascending hundreds of stone steps.
On the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the Perfume Pagoda Festival is held.
March/April: Phu Giay Festival
Nam Dinh province’s Phu Giay Temple honours Lieu Hanh, one of the “four immortal gods” of Vietnamese mythology and the only one based on a real person (a princess of the 16th century who died young).
During the third lunar month, when most people are off from work, a large number of Buddhists from all over the world travel to Phu Giay Temple, located about 55 miles east of Hanoi, to participate in the festival. Cockfighting, “keo chu,” and folk singing are just a few of the many traditional activities that take place all across the event.
It’s the first to the 10th day of the third month of the Chinese lunar calendar that the Phu Giay Festival occurs.
January/February: Tet Festival
Tet is the Vietnamese New Year’s celebration to welcome in the Chinese New Year and is regarded as the most significant celebration in Vietnamese culture.
Families from across the country (or the world) travel to their hometowns to spend the Tet holidays together. As the old year ends and the new one begins at the stroke of midnight, the Vietnamese usher out the old and herald in the Kitchen God by pounding drums, setting off fireworks, and provoking barking dogs (a lucky omen).
On the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the Tet Festival occurs.
March/April: Thay Pagoda Festival
Tu Dao Hanh, creator and inventor was a Buddhist monk worthy of adoration. When it comes to Vietnamese culture, he is best known for developing water puppetry.
During the Thay Pagoda Festival, villagers carry a procession carrying Tu Dao Hanh’s veneration tablet to commemorate his life. At the Thuy Dinh House in front of Tu Dao Hanh’s pagoda, there are various water puppet shows to mark the festival.
The Thay Pagoda may be reached in 30 minutes by car from Hanoi, which is roughly 18 miles away to the southwest and runs from the 5th to the 7th day of the 3rd lunar month.
April: Hung Festival
The Hung Vuong Festival commemorates the fabled birth of one of Vietnam’s earliest rulers. The narrative of the Hung Vuong’s origins is murky at best but legend has it that they were descended from a hundred sons birthed from a hundred eggs placed by a mountain princess and a sea dragon.
Half of the lads returned to the sea with their father, while the other half remained behind with their mother and became rulers. People assemble at the Hung Temple at Viet Tri City in Phu Tho province about 50 miles from Hanoi, to remember the brave sons of this lineage.
Festivities begin with offerings at the temple and a temple fair that includes performances like sword dances and traditional Vietnamese operas. The tenth day of the third lunar month has long been observed as a national holiday in Vietnam, and the government of that country officially recognised it as such in 2007.
April/May: Xen Xo Phon festival
The White Thai people of Mai Chau sing to the sky in supplication for rain during the lunar calendar’s fourth month (between April and May). Singing in the torchlight and accepting offerings from the people of their villages, White Thai groups visit their homes on a rotating basis.
Every year, the White Thai, who rely on the rain for their rice and vegetable crops, pray to the heavens for more rain to arrive — the bigger the festival, the more bountiful the rains will be when the weather shifts.
There are many young people in Mai Chau’s villages who take part in Xen Xo Phon, while their parents and grandparents wait in their homes to make offerings afterward.
September/October: Mid-Autumn Festival
Lanterns are used in the Mid-Autumn festival, or Tet Trung Thu, to bring back a mythical moon-bound figure.
For children, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a favourite since it calls for more candy, fruit, and entertainment than any other time of the year. Cakes like the banh deo and banh nuong, which are shaped like fish and the moon, are served at Mid-Autumn festivities.
Traveling troupers are the most common performers of lion dances, and they often go from house to house to perform for money.
China’s Mid-Autumn Festival occurs on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.