Culture, Customs, and Etiquette

Learning about Vietnam Culture through Its Major Holidays

Time flies! October heralds the last 3 months of the year with some wonderful holidays. For many people, especially those who are passionate about Vietnam culture, this is the ideal time to pack up and travel across the country for a great pleasure: Joining some of the best festivals that take place at the end of the year!

1. Keo Pagoda Festival

Keo Pagoda Festival is held in September every year according to lunar calendar in Hanh Thien village, Xuan Truong, Nam Dinh. The festival includes activities such as incense offering, chanting, praying, dragon dance and boat race on the Red River. The festival is dedicated to worshipping the Buddha and Zen master Khong Lo who excels in the fields of medicine, poetry, bronze sculpture and architecture. Besides, the festival also takes place in the Lunar New Year.

A boat-race-in-Keo-Pagoda-Festival

A boat race in Keo Pagoda Festival (Source: Google)

While the Spring Festival includes duck-catching competitions, cooking contests and multiple forms of traditional arts, the September festival is solemnly held with religious rituals. In addition, this Keo Pagoda Festival is also a gathering place for cultural and spiritual activities of the agricultural population, thus attracting people from all regions in Vietnam.

2. New Rice Festival

New Rice is one of the most important festivals in Central Highlands. To ethnic groups in Vietnam, this festival plays an extremely vital role in their cultures, so they put a great deal of effort into holding and celebrating it.

K’ho people who reside in Lam Dong Province consider New Rice Festival an opportunity to pray to the Goddess of Rice for peace and prosperity. The offerings are usually chickens, pigs and stem wine. Well-off families typically choose pigs for their animal sacrifices, whereas families with tight budgets often pick chickens.

When it comes to the New Rice festival of Sedong (Xo Dang) community, it is the village patriarch who is in charge of all activities. On the day when the main ceremony takes place, each family brings their offerings to the communal house to carry out religious rituals and “invite” Gods to come and enjoy a new rice-based meal. In the ceremony, the village patriarch reports crop production to the Gods and solemnly ask for better crop yield for the residents in the next harvest time.

Though the way that people celebrate the New Rice Festival may vary, yet its importance remains substantial in Vietnamese culture. In fact, rice-related festivals are indispensable in all major holidays in Vietnam.


Co Tu people celebrating New Rice Festival (Source: Google)

3. Sapa Winter Festival

Sapa is invariably a wonderful spot to visit for major holidays in Vietnam. To give the tourists more insights into the daily lifestyle and customs of ethnic minority groups living in the foggy town, the authority of Sapa has decided to launch Winter Festival that takes place annually.


Sapa shrouded in layers of snow (Source: Google)

Sapa Winter Festival often consists of many cultural activities and special performances embedded with unique cultural identities of the local ethnic groups. Some parts of the festival that most tourists particularly enjoy include artificial snow blowing, folk singing, chanty, traditional musical and instrumental performances, folk games, traditional food feasts. One brand new yet extremely attractive activity is the fire-jumping festival of Red Dao minority. This interesting festival is held as soon as harvesting is completed with a view to honouring the God of Fire, who is believed to represent good luck. Although you can witness this fire celebration outside the Sapa Winter Festival’s zone, attending it in this grand cultural event gives you an opportunity to see the correlations among different ethnic ethnicity’s cultures.


Fire jumping festival of Red Dao people (Source: Google)

4. Ok om bok Festival

 To Khmer people living in Southern Vietnam, Ok Om Bok Festival is the largest and most anticipated festival of the year. The ethinic minority group dedicate Ok Om Bok to the God of Moon and wish for a year of bumper crops, peace and happiness. The preparation for the festival starts one month before it officially takes place with certain kinds of food such as green rice, sweet potatoes, tropical fruits and sweets.

After the ceremony in honor of the God of Moon is finished, many dynamic activities begin with the most noticeable one being boat racing. This is the traditional ritual to honor the God of Water and also to commemorate Nagar, one of the three gods of Hinduism, who turned into a log to bring the Buddha across the river.

In addition, you can play Oc Co (a traditional game of Khmer ethnic group), pétanque, enjoy Lam Vong Dance and join floating water lanterns with the local people. The lanterns are made of banana stems, shaped like temples and decorated with colorful patterns.

Khmer individuals may be the rare ethnicity in Vietnam to treasure Ok Om Bok, but the festival is undoubtedly one of the major holidays in Vietnam for its values are definitely not limited to a group of people.


Boat racing in Ok-Om-Bok Festival (Source: Google)

Festivals are always a vital part of Vietnamese culture in general and ethnic minorities in Vietnam in particular. By joining these big holidays, you will be able to learn more about the S-shaped country and all the traditional values that the people have been trying to preserve through generations.

Luu Nhat Vy














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