Official and informal holidays and festivals in Vietnam
Vietnam prefers not to disperse short weekends during the year, and rest for half a month. The dates of many holidays are constantly changing due to the use of the lunar calendar.
- 1 Official Holidays
- 1.1 Chinese calendar
- 1.2 New Year (first of January)
- 1.3 The Feast of Tet, or the Lunar New Year (the end of January is the middle of February)
- 1.4 Memorial Day of the Kings of the Hungs (the 10th day of the third lunar month)
- 1.5 Reunification Day (April 30)
- 1.6 International Labor Day – May 1
- 1.7 National Day, or Independence Day (September 2)
- 1.8 Teacher’s Day (November 20)
- 2 Family Celebrations
- 3 Traditional festivals in Vietnam
- 4 What about Western holidays?
- 5 Conclusion
If the holiday falls on the weekend, next Monday may also be marked as a holiday. Some foreign offices and embassies can take extra leave, but shops and restaurants often remain open to visitors. The most important holiday in the year called Tet (Vietnamese New Year) entails long breaks in the work of many companies, so carefully plan your trip.
About half of the official holidays, the Vietnamese celebrate according to the Gregorian calendar, and the second half – according to the lunar calendar. Most public holidays are dedicated to the important historical events and cultural values of the Vietnamese. The most important of them are closely connected with the veneration of their ancestors and are aimed at inviting the deceased to the house for a treat. In Vietnam, there are days when people visit the graves of those killed during the American-Vietnamese war. They bless the dead, cut the grass around the graves, leave flowers and donations.
In order to determine the days of holidays, Vietnamese widely use the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. Most festivals are held according to the dates set by the Moon. The lunar calendar is divided into 12 lunar months. For example, 2018 is 4716 on the Lunar calendar. Vietnamese New Year Tet begins when the sun enters the constellation of Aquarius. In Vietnam, there are so-called favorable and unfavorable days. The 5th, 14th and 23rd days of the lunar months are considered bad days, in which it is better not to do anything and be quieter than water, below the grass. Do not be surprised if these days your Vietnamese friends will refuse to meet with you.
New Year (first of January)
Despite the fact that most festivals and traditional cultural events of Vietnam are based on the lunar calendar, Christian is also widely used. As in most countries of the world, the Vietnamese celebrate the world New Year on the first of January. This day is considered a public holiday, therefore all state institutions, as well as offices and banks are usually closed.
The Feast of Tet, or the Lunar New Year (the end of January is the middle of February)
Tet is one of the most important holidays in Vietnam. Literally translated as a holiday of the first morning. Despite the fact that Tet only takes the first three days of the lunar calendar, the Vietnamese people prefer to rest for about a month. Tet plays an important role in the religious beliefs of Vietnam, and it is customary for him to prepare well in advance.
To leave all the failures and sorrows in the old year, Vietnamese are actively engaged in cleaning, rubbing dishes, sometimes even repainting houses, decorating them with a tree of kumquat, branches of a blossoming peach and many other bright plants.
Among the Vietnamese, it is also customary to take care of the altar of the ancestors, decorating it with five kinds of fruits. People buy themselves new clothes, shoes, try to pay off loans, make peace with their loved ones. Vietnamese believe: what they do on the eve of Tet will determine the whole next year. They smile a lot and try to do good deeds.
In the lunar New Year everywhere in the streets, in clothing, signs, decorations, yellow and red predominate. It is considered that they bring good luck. During the celebration of Tet, it is customary to give each other gifts and money in red envelopes. During a long celebration (from 5 to 9 days) cafes and restaurants may not work, many tourist services will also be unavailable.
Memorial Day of the Kings of the Hungs (the 10th day of the third lunar month)
According to historical records and Vietnamese traditions, the kings of Hunga were the founders of Vietnam. Celebration touches topics such as: piety, obedience to sons, worship of ancestors and patriotism. For many people, the Day of Remembrance of the Kings of the Hungs is not only a joyful event, but also a plunge into the traditional Vietnamese culture and values.
Reunification Day (April 30)
April 30, 1975 is a day that marks the fall of Saigon, the surrender of the South Vietnamese government, the cessation of the war and the liberation of southern Vietnam. It is a landmark date in history when the South and the North reunited. On this day you will see crowds of people walking festively dressed, and over each house there are waving flags. To conduct a festive morning parade, usually block traffic. In the central parts of the city, many streets become pedestrian. The Vietnamese government helps maintain the significance of this date, although financial constraints often make mass celebrations rather restrained.
International Labor Day – May 1
Labor Day is considered a public holiday. It is celebrated on the first day of May, immediately after the Reunification Day. Usually these two celebrations are celebrated together. On this day there are marches, parades and various performances.
National Day, or Independence Day (September 2)
On this day, people note the proclamation of the independence of Vietnam from France. Throughout the country there are performances, parades, fireworks and other celebrations. This is a very patriotic holiday, national flags are everywhere visible, and city walls are decorated with large posters of Ho Chi Minh, known here as “Uncle Ho”.
September 2, 1945 in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, President Ho Chi Minh officially declared Vietnam free from the colonial forces of France. Since then, the country annually celebrates this event. Some take the opportunity and travel, while others prefer to reflect on this historic event by visiting the Ba Dinh Square and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. On the square on this day there is a large parade demonstrating the achievements of the military and police service. Together with groups of people dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothes, the military march past the granite mausoleum, in which the embalmed remains of the revolutionary leader “uncle Ho” are kept.
Independence Day is an important historical, political and cultural event for any country, and Vietnam is no exception. During the Second World War, the communist league of Ho Chi Minh, better known as Vietmin, controlled a large part of the country. In mid-August 1945, Ho Chi Minh called for a general uprising, and on September 2 declared independence. Large crowds gathered in the Ba Dinh square. It seemed that the French colonial rule that lasted more than eighty years had ended. A few months later, the French returned again, and Ho Chi Minh along with the troops fled to the northern jungle. From there they fought for eight more years before France surrendered. This happened in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954.
Then the Americans came to the country, and Vietnam had to lead another long, bloody war, which ended on April 30, 1975. The North and the South united under the leadership of the communist government.
Teacher’s Day (November 20)
In late autumn, Vietnamese celebrate the teacher’s day. I must say that the teachers in Asia have a special attitude. In China, for example, the word “Laoshi” (teacher) is pronounced with special respect by both adults and children.
In Asia, it is considered that the teacher is one of the most honorable professions and since the childhood the parents teach their children to obey the teacher, and if the teacher scolds for something, then show humility and accept criticism. The teacher is always right.
In Vietnam, the teacher’s day is celebrated on November 20. Solemnly and cheerfully. In general, see for yourself:
Birthday Party in Vietnam
According to the lunar Chinese calendar, when a child is born, he is one year old. This is not very common, but some Vietnamese may still adhere to this tradition. Suppose, if a child is seven years old, they can inform you that he turned eight. This is called “Vietnamese”, or “real” age.
Time, day and year of birth have an astrological significance. According to them, the Vietnamese predict the nature, talents and future of the child. According to tradition, they consider age, starting from the first day of the new year in which the person was born. This rule works even if the child was born on the eve of the outgoing year.
As a result, with the coming of the new year, his age will be about two years, even if he is actually only two days. Perhaps this is difficult to understand from the first reading. However, all the vicissitudes with the calculation of age do not mean that the day of physiological appearance is not observed. Often this is an occasion for a special prayer and an appeal to the ancestors. Almost every non-Christian home can find a so-called “regiment of gods”, on which birthday food and flowers are exhibited. On this occasion, the Vietnamese can gather their closest friends for dinner.
Weddings among wealthy Vietnamese families often turn into showing their money for show. For some time the government even attempted to limit it. So, one day the Vietnamese Prime Minister appealed to the authorities asking that weddings, funerals and other events not be too vivid. He asked the civil servants to set an example for the rest of the people, but his wishes were not taken into account. Despite the desire for simplicity of ceremonies, Vietnam encourages its citizens to marry.
During family events, about one-twelve people gather at one table. Great lunches are prepared for weddings, funerals and festivals. Women-guests often bring food and help the owners in cooking.
The Vietnamese festive table consists of món man – a salty dish and món ngot – a dessert. All food on the table, except for personal rice dishes, is used collectively. Dishes are not served one by one, but at the same time everyone is put on the table. The main holiday consists of 10 dishes: glass noodles, manga (bamboo shoots), meatballs, stews, Vietnamese sausage, boiled chicken or duck, Vietnamese salad and fried dishes.
Traditional festivals in Vietnam
Festivals in Vietnam are usually dedicated to the gods, heroes of national history or mythical characters. All of them, to one degree or another, fought against foreign invaders, as well as against life’s adversities and natural disasters.
Festivals are the strength of a commune, a village, a local region and even the whole nation. During the festivals, traditional moral values are transferred to the younger generation. This is a return to the roots and a great opportunity to express our sorrow and anxiety, turning to the gods for help. Most often, festivals are held in spring and autumn, when the climate is especially favorable.
Pagoda Festival of Bai Dinh
The spring festival of the Pagoda Bai Dinh is an ideal occasion for a pilgrimage to the imperial capital of Hoa Lu in Ninh Binh province. In the days of the festival there is a cordiality in communication and veneration of the elderly. You can see how groups of people purposely climb up the slopes of the mountains, which symbolizes the vital and spiritual path.
Huong Pagoda Festival
This is one of the greatest Buddhist festivals in northern Vietnam. The Huong Pagoda Festival plays an important role in the spiritual life of the people, in particular for Vietnamese Buddhists. Inside the Huong pagoda, visitors worship the Buddha, praying that their wishes will come true. Cultural events, sports, boat races, rock climbing, singing folk songs, romantic trips to caves, ceremonies, etc. are held.
Approximately 20 km from Hanoi, in the province of Buck-Ninh there is a village of Lim, which is the birthplace of folk songs in the style of Quantum. The festival is celebrated among local residents on the 12th, 13th day of the first lunar month and is intended to popularize the tradition of singing the Quantum. Every year, thousands of tourists come to the Lim festival and enjoy singing performers in traditional costumes.
Wu Lan Festival, or Mother’s Day
This holiday is also called Trung Nguyen. On this day, the gates of the grave open and the souls of the dead come to their former homes to see their families. Restless souls wander among the living in search of mercy and compassion. The festival is held on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. On this day, Vietnamese gather in families, expressing respect, love and gratitude to their ancestors. People who have lost their mothers wear white clothes, and those whose mothers are alive are red. This is a unique custom in Vietnamese culture.
July is the month of wandering ghosts
In many Asian countries, lunar July is considered the month of failures and curses by unsaved souls. It is believed that in the first half of the month the gates of hell are open and ghosts move freely around the Earth. Spirits forgotten by relatives or dead without proper burial of people wander alone, cursing all those who meet on the way. Many Vietnamese can sincerely blame the ghosts for their failures. In July, they often refuse large-scale plans, trips and undertakings.
Festival of Hungry Ghosts
This is perhaps the most notable event of the month. Vietnamese families cook food throughout the day. At noon they offer food to their ancestors, and after sunset they leave for the lost souls. Monks on this day ask the Buddha to forgive all souls who committed sins in human bodies and become hungry ghosts.
It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, when the moon reaches its maximum visibility and brightness in the sky. According to tradition, children are given flashlights, treats and funny masks. During the celebration, the Vietnamese worship the god of the Earth, perform literary and artistic events, as well as offer dragon sacrifices, dragon boat races and lantern fairs.
This is a traditional holiday in honor of the mythical hero of Saint-Giong who fought against foreign enemies. During the celebration, a demonstration of ancient martial arts takes place, the spirit of patriotism reigns, the freedom and indomitable will of the Vietnamese people are felt. The festival of Giong is held simultaneously throughout the northern part of Vietnam, but the most typical are the celebrations in the temples of Fu Dong and Sok in Hanoi. If at the end of the festival it rains, the Vietnamese regard it as the blessing of Saint Giong for a good harvest.
The annual traditional festival for fishermen is held in early October about 50 km southeast of Ho Chi Minh City. Village elders on behalf of all people express respect to the whales, and also commemorate the fishermen who died in the sea. Worship is a procession to the temple of China. Then the procession moves to the sea to greet whales. The ceremony often involves a fleet of five hundred boats.
What about Western holidays?
Christmas in Vietnam
Christmas in Vietnam is of interest only for a relatively small Catholic community, as well as for shopkeepers who take the opportunity to earn.
Many Catholics left Vietnam after the departure of the French colonialists in 1954. In Ho Chi Minh City there is a Notre-Dame cathedral built from the end of the 19th century, made of pink brick. It celebrates the birth of Christ and even allows you to listen to the service, sitting on scooters on the temple square. Even in Vietnam there is a cathedral.
Christmas and the Gregorian New Year in Vietnam are, first of all, generous corporate parties of foreign companies for their customers, where loud speeches on cooperation and business are heard.
On this day, like never before, they buy roses, boxes of chocolates and perfume. All this is in a communist state where a strong work ethic and commitment to the nation have always been a priority over the manifestations of attachment. Young people, mostly students, acquire valentines, the cost of which is often equivalent to the salary for the day of the majority of Vietnamese.
In Vietnam, there are two women’s holidays – International Women’s Day (March 8) and the Vietnamese Women’s Day (October 20), in honor of women even built a Women’s Museum in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
March 8 is very similar to the one that is held in Russia. On the main streets there is a huge number of tents with flowers, the prices for any of them grow 5 times. But men still buy beautiful bouquets to please their ladies.
By the way, on a typical day, the cost of 1 rose in Nha Trang is 5,000 VND (15 rubles), but keep in mind that, despite this, the bouquet will get you a terrible (most likely), since Vietnamese florists are disgusting.
In Vietnam there are both foreign holidays, which entered the culture under the influence of fashion, and their own, national. It’s very pleasant to observe both of them, and even more pleasantly – to participate in them, as much as possible plunging into the culture of a foreign country. Be open and you will learn a lot of new and interesting!
In the comments write, whether you had the experience of meeting some holiday in a foreign country. Which of the cultural traditions do you remember most?