Festivals and holidays in your own country are always welcome as a way to let loose and enjoy time with family and friends—so imagine how fun it would be if you got to enjoy the celebrations of another country in a new place. You’ll get to see a side of the people and culture that isn’t on display every day, and you’ll make memories that will last a lifetime. Vietnam tends to follow the Chinese lunar calendar for their festivals as the country’s history as a Chinese vassal state still has a bearing today. Some of their festivals are celebrated on a national-level and others are celebrated by province and cities, but regardless of the celebration you experience, it is sure to impress and delight.
A transformation takes place in Hoi An every 14th day of the lunar month. Motorized traffic is banned from downtown and the whole city morphs into a performance venue where old-school Vietnamese arts are put on for visitors. Shops in Hoi An participate and contribute to the celebrations too, where brightly coloured lanterns are strung and stretched throughout the streets and on trees and every possible surface, spreading the light-filled radiance into every corner of Hoi An. On these nights, you won’t have to pay for entry to the city’s old attractions, either. Temples flood with visitors during the Full Moon Festival as locals honour and pay respects to their ancestors.
The Lim Festival will take place on March 3, 2015 and it’s one of the festivals that is celebrated in a providence instead of throughout the entire country. The Lim Festival takes place in the Bac Ninh province, which is just a short 20 minutes outside of Hanoi (and well worth the detour out of the capital city). The side trip is worthwhile as the Lim Festival is where visitors can watch performances of “quan ho”, or traditional songs that are performed by men and women. They sing these songs about greetings, sentimental love and many other topics. If you are lucky, you will even see one of these performances on a dragon boat!
When it comes to Buddhist monks, there are more than a fair share of notable monks. Tu Dao Hanh is one of those, as he was a noted innovator and inventor who made a number of important advances in medicine and religion. Beyond his theological advances, he is most notably known for inventing Vietnamese water puppetry. The Thay Pagoda Festival, which runs from April 23-25, 2015, celebrates Tu Dao Hanh’s life. Celebrations include a procession of the monk’s worshipping tablet, and there are a number of locals who perform water puppetry for visitors. A favourite spot to catch these performances is at the Thuy Pagoda.
The Buon Don Elephant races take place throughout April and May, and it’s no surprise that the festivals are located in the Buon Don district. This district has long been known around the world for its M’Nong wild elephant tamers and trainers. Each year the heritage of these people and their special skills are celebrated with elephant races. They are held in the forests near the Sevepoi River with the 1.6km racetrack over level ground. Two jockeys are on each elephant—one to steer and the other to manage the massive animal’s speed. Encouraged by exuberant crowds, beating gongs, and loud cheering, the elephants can get up to a pretty fast clip (11 m/s).
Celebrated throughout Vietnam, the Tet Festival is an especially auspicious event on par with New Year’s in China. The Vietnamese consider Tet to be the most important festival of the year. It’s when family members gather in their hometowns to spend the holiday with each other. As midnight strikes, the New Year is welcomed in to the sound of beating drums, whistling and cracking fireworks and barking dogs (a good omen). In 2015, the Tet Festival will occur on February 19, 2015.
Who would say no to a party, especially a party in Vietnam, where the fun flows freely and the nights never seem to end? Pick the festival that appeals to you the most and get ready to get immersed in the culture of this amazing South East Asian country. When you travel internationally, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan—try getting a travel insurance policy from Cover-More to ensure everything goes smoothly on your Vietnam vacation.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Alex.ch