Vietnam’s packed annual calendar of festivals and events is an intriguing fusion of national anniversaries, festivals based on the lunar calendar, western observances and religious themed celebrations. These are the key events throughout 2014. Make sure you organise the visa for Vietnam in plenty of time before you leave for this exciting country.
Vietnamese New Year – 31 January 2014
Known locally as ‘Tet’ or simply Lunar New Year, this is the very first major anniversary on the Vietnamese annual calendar. Of course the western New Year is marked across the country on 1 January, but Tet brings a special atmosphere. The country really goes to town for up to 10 days, depending on the location. The event starts with prayers and local observances on 28 January and culminates on New Year’s Day itself on 31 January. The major cities including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City get back to work quite quickly after this, although rural areas continue the celebrations until 5 February. During Tet, family and friends gather together, special foods are eaten and vivid yellow and red are in evidence in clothing and decorations.
Lantern Festival – 14 February 2014
Aligned with the lunar calendar, this years Lantern Festival falls on Valentine’s Day. Also known as Tết Nguyên Tiêu, The day is marked by the carrying of paper lanterns to local temples and prayers and thanks are given. It also marks the official end to the New Year festivities.
Chol Chnam Thmay Festival – 13 to 15 April 2014
Celebrated regionally, the Chol Chnam Thmay festival is marked by the Khmer ethnic minority people across Vietnam to welcome the New Year, aka the Khmer New Year.
Hung King Festival – 19 April 2014
This Vietnamese festival is known as Giỗ tổ Hùng Vương and locals pay homage to the Hung Kings who founded Vietnam. Observed on the tenth day of the third lunar month, the festival is characterised by the burning of ceremonial incense and prayers offered at the temples across the country. There are also dragon parades, drum performances and folk song recitals and the day is reserved as a public holiday.
Halong Tourism Week – 26 Apr 2014 – 04 May 2014
The week-long Halong Tourism Week takes place each year to mark the cultural importance of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. The annual event is marked with a lively carnival, vibrant light shows and spectacular fireworks displays.
Reunification Day – 30 April 2014
Also known as Liberation Day, or Ngày giải phóng, each year the 30th April is set aside to mark the day in 1975 when Saigon (now named Ho Chi Minh City) was captured by the Viet Cong, thus signalling the end of the Vietnam War. This h=gave way to the ‘Fall of Saigon’ and the subsequent reunification of north and south Vietnam. The day itself is one for inward reflection as well as outward observances; military parades and cultural shows depict the triumph. Fireworks round off the day to mark the exact moment that the south surrendered. Vietnam’s president attends a special ceremony in the capital of Hanoi.
International Labour Day – 1 May 2014
Vietnam pays thanks to those that have made economic contributions to Vietnam on International Workers Day or Ngày Quốc tế Lao động.
Buddha’s Birthday – 6 May 2014
The eighth day within the fourth month of the lunar calendar marks Buddha’s Birthday, which is also known as Vesak Day or Phật Đản in Vietnamese. Devotees celebrate this holy event with prayers at offerings at local temples and shrines.
President Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday – 19 May 2014
Today marks the birthday of Ho Chi Minh, who remains a cherished historical figure within Vietnamese culture. Following independence in 1945, Ho Chi Minh then served as the President until his death from a heart attack on 2 September 1969. He had lived in modest quarters within the palace grounds in Hanoi and today he lies embalmed within the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square, both of these sites will be popular spots for locals to pay their respects. Locals and visitors alike can explore his legacy within the capital’s Ho Chi Minh Museum which is dedicated to his life and work.
Mid-year Festival – 2 June 2014
Better known as Tết Đoan Ngọ in Vietnam, this is the period that marks the mid-point of the year, or the summer solstice. Locals drink sticky rice wine and meet with family and friends.
Vietnamese Family Day – 28 June 2014
The family day observance turns into a weekend event, which is dedicated to families, who will gather to exchange stories, pray and eat. 2014 also marks the 20th anniversary of The Year of The Family, so this year’s celebrations will be particularly poignant.
Remembrance Day – 27 July 2014
This is a day for quiet contemplation as the Vietnamese remember those who have fallen in the conflicts.
Ghost Festival – 10 August 2014
Tết Trung Nguyên stems from the Chinese Hungry Ghost festival where souls are released from hell and are offered food. Birds and fish are also released into the wild as a symbolic gesture. The whole month was believed to be shrouded in lonely spirits, which some consider unlucky.
Independence Day – 2 September 2014
Vietnam’s National Day, Quốc khánh, marks the day that President Ho Chi Minh announced the country’s independence from colonial rule. It was on this day that in 1945 that Ho Chi Minh read out the declaration of independence from France to the public. The day is commemorated with much flag waving and celebration of Uncle Ho himself, as he pops up on billboards.
Mid-Autumn Festival – 8 September 2014
This festival marks the end of the autumn harvest period and is also known as the Moon festival. Again, in line with the lunar calendar, this event is celebrated across much of Asia. Tết Trung Thu gives thanks to a bountiful harvest in what is considered an important holiday tradition. The Vietnamese believed that the dragons brought rain to nourish the crops and still today, dragons make an appearance in the proceedings.
Confucius’ Birthday – 20 September 2014
Devotees will mark Confucius’ Birthday across many parts of Asia today, which also falls in line with Teachers Day in many countries.
Vietnamese Women’s Day – 20 October 2014
Today is given over to honour the women of Vietnam and their contribution to the nation, both economically and culturally.