Have you ever wondered why people consider Vietnam as an ideal destination that caters to almost any type of traveler? It’s because Vietnam owns exotic things from beautiful attractions to a kaleidoscope of charming cultures. Festivals are when culture comes alive, so let’s embark on a cultural journey through Vietnam’s regional festivals across its every region.
The Spirit of Vietnam festivals
With more than 65 groups of ethnic people, Vietnam celebrates around 500 festivals across the country throughout the year. Although these festivals bear different characteristics and traditional values, they are either dedicated to heroic figures or spiritual beings and deities.
Thanks to these traditional festivals, the elderly have the opportunity to pass old traditions and morals to the younger generation. Moreover, various historical stories about national heroes are also told. Therefore, this is a chance for the young to broaden their knowledge about the country.
Besides, for some people, these festivals help them to refresh their soul to find peace as well as express their respect to the past. And, for cultural junkies, Vietnam festivals give them a new perspective about Vietnamese culture.
Biggest Regional festivals in Vietnam
I. Typical festivals in the region of Tay Bac and Viet Bac
1. Long Tong Festival
- Time: Sometime between the 2nd – 30th of Lunar Januar.
- Purpose: Dedicated to the gods of agriculture, mountains, and streams, as well as Tutelary Deity, who is believed to watch over and bring fertility to the fields, gardens, cattle, and village.
Long Tong (the festival of going down the field) is a traditional festival of the Tay community and many other minority groups inhabiting the mountainous Northwest of Vietnam. It’s normally held sometime in Lunar January, depending on the area. In local tradition, people organize this festival to wish for prosperity, a bumper crop and peaceful life, etc. During the festival, people will join in various traditional games, so this is a chance for you to get to know more about the traditions of Tay people.
Long Tong festival (Source: Google)
2. Festival for peace of Muong village
- Time: Sometime in between late Lunar January and Early February (Around the Lunar New Year period)
- Purpose: Dedicated to the Goddess of the water and the God of the village and the family.
This festival is a long-live tradition of Muong ethnic people and Thai people in Mai Chau, Thuan Chau, Moc Chau. For the ethnic minority community in Tay Bac region, this festival plays an important role in their culture and religious life. Similar to Long Tong Festival, there is no exact time for this one. It takes place sometime in between January and February of the lunar calendar.
The most special feature of this Vietnam festival is that it’s associated with the killing buffalo custom and worshipping the Gods. Besides, traditional games, lots of spiritual activities are also held during the festival.
3. Hoa Ban Festival
- Time: Lunar February (Depend on the year).
- Purpose: To preserve and promote the cultural values of ethnic groups and introducing the image of Dien Bien Province with orchid trees as the symbol of the northwest region of Vietnam.
Hoa Ban Festival is also known as Xen Village Festival which belongs to Thai ethnic people. It’s held in the blossom season of Hoa Ban (a typical type of flower in the mountains of the Northwest). This festival can be considered as the most romantic one in this list. This is because it’s also called the festival of love. Therefore, during this festival, lots of young people who wear the most beautiful costumes join in various activities so that they can have a chance to find their lover.
Hoa Ban festival (Source: Google)
II. Important festivals in the Northern delta of Vietnam
4. Hung Temple Festival
- Time: From the 8th to 11th of Lunar March.
- Purpose: Dedicated to the 18 Hung Kings (2879-258 BC), the first emperors of the nation who founded Văn Lang (the former name of Vietnam).
Among other Vietnam festivals, Hung Temple Festival is one of the most important events throughout the country. It occurs every year to commemorate the Hung kings who built and protected the country. The practice of worshipping Hung Kings is to perpetuate and amplify the profound philosophies of ‘Uống nước nhớ nguồn’ (when drinking water, think of its source) and ‘Ăn quả nhớ kẻ trồng cây’ (when eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree) of Vietnamese people, thereby establishing and enhancing a sense of belonging and community.
People don’t know when the first time this festival was organized, but it becomes a cultural tradition of Vietnam from generation to generation. Every year, from the 8th to 11th of the third lunar month, Vietnamese from all over the country visit Hung Temple to participate in the festival. They come there bringing various offerings to give the monks. Also, various activities happen, which is different each year.
Hung temple festival (Source: Google)
5. Huong Pagoda Festival
- Time: Lunar January to Lunar March.
- Purpose: Honoring the reincarnation of the Goddess of Mercy, who – according to Vietnamese mythology – had spent 9 years practicing Buddhism on Yen Stream (the only path leading to Huong Tich cave).
Besides Hung Temple Festival, Huong Pagoda Festival is also a very famous spring pilgrimage. In comparison to other Vietnam festivals, Huong Pagoda Festival is very familiar with Vietnamese people in general and Northern people in particular, and even more so with Buddhist devotees. Generally referred to as the sacred Buddha land, Huong So is not only a place where people show their respect to Buddha, it’s also “a paradise” where people can enjoy the peaceful beauty of mountains and river.
Annually, Huong Pagoda Festival takes place from the first to the third lunar month. That’s why it’s considered the longest festival in Vietnam.
6. Yen Tu Festival
- Time: From the 10th of Lunar January to the last day of Lunar March.
- Purpose: To honor Emperor Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308) – A national hero who defeated the Mongol invaders twice.
After ceding the throne to his son Tran Anh Tong in 1293, Emperor Tran Nhan Tong devoted himself to the practice of Buddhism, founded Truc Lam Yen Tu sect (a Vietnamese Zen sect), and later entered nirvana on Yen Tu Mountain. In 2013, the biggest statue of the Buddist King Tran Nhan Tong was erected on top of An Ky Sinh Mount, at an elevation of 900m above sea level to honor his contribution to Vietnamese Buddhism.
This festival is held every year in Quang Ninh. Therefore, you can visit Halong bay as well as participate in this festival. It’s said that Yen Tu used to be the Buddhist center of ancient Vietnam. So, you can have a chance to approach the authentic Buddhism of Vietnam here in Yen Tu. Joining in Yen Tu Festival, visitors will escape from the mundane world to participate in a unique religious pilgrimage in a majestic natural place.
Yen Tu Festival lasts from the first till the third lunar month. It attracts thousands of tourists from all over the country.
Yen Tu festival (Source: Google)
7. Giong Temple Festival
- Time: From the 6th to the 12th of Lunar April.
- Purpose: To commemorate and show deep gratitude to Saint Giong – one of the four immortals in Vietnamese legend, who defeated the enemies under the 6th Hung King Dynasty.
Giong Temple relic complex includes Trinh temple, Mau temple, Dai Bi pagoda, Thuong temple, Thanh Giong monument, Non Nuoc pagoda. In 2011, Giong Temple Festival was recognized as Intangible cultural heritage represented of humanity by UNESCO.
Giong temple festival is celebrated on the 6th lunar month every year at Phu Linh commune, Soc Son district (Hanoi). According to legend, this land was the last stop of Thanh Giong before taking off the armor and disappearing among the clouds. The festival takes place in several days, depending on the location, with traditional rituals, attracting not only domestic but also international tourists thanks to its cultural value.
8. Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival
- Time: From the 6th of Lunar January to the end of Lunar March.
- Purpose: Dedicated to the worship of celestial deities, the Buddha, the Thanh Mau Thuong Ngan, as well as many important historical figures such as Emperor Quang Trung and Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang.
It’s one of the most famous spring Vietnam festivals. It takes place from the 6th of Tet holiday till the third lunar month in Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh – the ancient capital of Vietnam. And, of course, it occurs at Bai Dinh pagoda – the largest temple complex in Vietnam.
Bai Dinh pagoda festival (Source: Google)
During the festival, millions of Buddhists all over the country as well as from other countries flock to Bai Dinh pagoda. They come there practice their religion and show their respect toward celestial deities of Heaven and Earth and the Buddha. Besides the religious purpose, Bai Dinh Pagoda Festival is also a chance for people to enhance the connection between humans and nature.
9. Lim Festival
- Time: From the 12th to the 14th of Lunar January.
- Purpose: Dedicated to the traditional art form of Quan Ho – a type of antiphonal singing between men and women recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2009
Lim Festival is in full swing on the 13th of the first lunar month every year in Tien Du district, Bac Ninh province. It is considered the unique quintessence of Kinh Bac culture, symbolizing love, faith, and a desire to live a life full of love.
Quan Ho singing makes up the crux of Lim Festival, comprising 200 different melodies sung in 49 Quan Ho villages, capturing the listeners’ hearts with sweet melodies and heartfelt lyrics. Betel offering and ferry hailing are some of the most popular melodies and are loved by many.
In the past, people spent days preparing for this festival. And, during the time of the festival, various activities took place, including singing and cooking competitions. However, along with the time, this festival has been simplified a lot. Now, people only organize some special worship ceremonies in one day. After that, some small games will be played.
10. Thay Pagoda Festival
- Time: From the 5th to the 7th of Lunar March.
- Purpose: To pay homage to the folk hero Tu Dao Hanh and his feats.
Thay Pagoda is located in Sai Son commune, Quoc Oai district, about 20 km southwest of Hanoi. At Thay pagoda, visitors will have the opportunity to admire the charming countryside scenery, enjoy the special water puppet shows which tell folklore stories or local legends. So, in addition to participating in a Vietnam festival, you can enjoy an interesting art form of Vietnamese culture.
Thay pagoda festival (Source: Google)
The annual Thay Pagoda festival is held on the third lunar month. The festival begins with a ceremony to worship the Buddha and a religious performance with the coordination of national instruments. Moreover, during 2 days of the festival, you also can join in various activities.
III. Typical festivals in Central Vietnam
11. Fish Praying Festival
- Time: On the 12th of Lunar January.
- Purpose: To commemorate Truong Quy Cong – the village’s tutelary god.
This is a festival of people living in Thai Duong Ha village (Thuan An town, Phu Vang district, Thua Thien Hue province). It’s held on the 12th day of the first lunar month every year. People celebrate this festival to commemorate Truong Quy Cong – the village’s tutelary god. According to the villagers, he taught people how to fish and trade, so the villagers want to show their respect to him through this festival
During the festival, lots of games which depict the activities of fishing are held. They not only help entertain people but also how the folk rituals of coastal residents.
12. Kate Festival
- Time: On the 1st of the 7th month of the Cham Calendar.
- Purpose: To commemorate the national heroes, ancestors, gods, Po Rome King, and the kings of Poklong Garai; as well as to pray for bumper crops and growth of all beings.
This is the biggest and the most dynamic festival of Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces. It takes place at Poklong Garai tower or other Cham towers. Different from other Vietnam festivals in this list, Kate Festival occurs on the first of the 7th of Cham calendar every year.
Kate festival (Source: Google)
People in this area celebrate Kate festival to commemorate the national heroes, ancestors, gods, and the kings of Poklong Garai, Po Rome King. During the time of the festival, local people will gather at the tower for a simple ceremony.
After the shamans conduct a ceremony outside, people can enter the tower to watch the washing ceremony for Poklong Garai king. At the same time, people will chant and sing folk songs. This ceremony will be ended with a sacred dance in the tower.
IV. Typical festivals in the Central Highlands and the South of Vietnam
13. Buffalo Stabbing Festival
- Time: From early Lunar December of the previous year to Lunar March next year.
- Purpose: To pray for a prosperous harvest, as well as happy and healthy lives for the villagers.
This festival is quite popular among ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands and in the North of the Southeast. The buffalo stabbing ceremony takes place at leisure time (when people are taking a break to prepare for a new crop), so it’s held around the third or the 4th lunar month. For people in the Central Highlands, buffalo is often considered as a sacrifice because this animal symbolizes prosperity.
Buffalo stabbing festival (Source: Google)
After the rituals of worshipping the gods, the buffalo is taken to the pillar in the middle of the yard. All people in the village will dance. After that, a team of young men which is equipped will enter the yard to begin the buffalo stabbing ceremony.
14. Ba Chua Xu Festival
- Time: From the 23rd to the 27th of Lunar April.
- Purpose: To ask for protection and benediction from Ba Chua Xu (the local tutelary goddess).
It is the biggest folk Vietnam festival in the South. It’s held at Ba Chua Xu Temple in Sam Mountain on the fourth lunar month every year. Many cultural activities take place such as traditional singing and dancing.
The most special ceremony is the bath ritual. The statue of Ba Chua Xu is taken down and washed with a mixture of rainwater with perfume. This ritual attracts lots of tourists because of its cultural value. Besides, visitors coming here are also charmed by the beautiful scenery of Sam mountain and the surrounding.