Vietnam Tour – Holidays and Festivals

by Dwight

In many respects Vietnam follows China in its holidays and festivals, sharing many of the most important, but of course also has its own important dates. In addition to national events, some of the local ethnic minorities also have their important ceremonies and festivals.

Most important of all the festivals is the Lunar New Year. This is known in Vietnamese as Tet Nguyen Dan, usually abbreviated to Tet. This is on the same day the Chinese New Year, around late January or early February. People spend a lot of time preparing for Tet, by thoroughly cleaning their homes and by cooking special foods. It is also considered prudent to settle all your debts in order to start the New Year with a clean slate.

At midnight, the start of the year people light firecrackers and bang drums and gongs to frighten away the devil and his wife. Houses are traditionally decorated with peach blossom and it is absolutely forbidden to sweep up during the first three days of the holiday as this may sweep away your good luck. Special foods to eat during Tet include ‘banh chung’, sticky rice with meat, wrapped in banana leaves; pickles; and a special dish of pork stewed in coconut juice. Duck and shrimp are not eaten at this time as they are considered unlucky.

Other important public holidays include the 30th of April, known variously as Victory, Reunification or Liberation Day, held to commemorate the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the reunification of the two Vietnams. International Workers’ Day is celebrated on the 1st of May. September 2nd is Vietnam’s Independence Day, held to remember the declaration of independence form France and Japan in 1945.

Other holidays or festivals which Vietnam recognizes but are not public holidays include International Women’s Day on the 8th of March and Teacher’s Day on November 20th. January 1st is also a public holiday.Several festivals which Vietnam has in common with China and which follow the traditional lunar calendar include Thanh Minh, the equivalent of China’s Qing Ming or Tomb Sweeping Festival. This is a time for the people to remember their ancestors and most people will visit the graves and make offering by burning paper money etc.

The Ghost Festival in August or September is similar in many aspects to the western Halloween. Again, people will pray for their ancestors and offer paper money sacrifices, particularly to appease the ghosts of ancestors who may not have been given a fitting send off or who have been neglected in people’s memories. One holiday which is not celebrated in mainland China is Buddha’s Birthday which falls in May. This can be a good day to visit one of Vietnam’s Buddhist temples, but remember to expect them to be crowded.

Mid-Autumn Festival, usually in September or October, is the equivalent of the Harvest Festival in Christian cultures. It is also known as the Moon Festival as it is held under what is believed to be the brightest full moon of the year.There are numerous festivals held by Vietnam’s ethnic minorities including the Khmer people’s New Year which takes place in April. This is celebrated by visiting pagodas and by taking part in and watching dance and song performances and plays. Kite flying is also a feature of the festival.

In early spring, the Bahnar ethnic group thank the Gods for good harvests by slaughtering buffaloes as offerings. The festival also involves dancing, javelin throwing, and feasts of roasted buffalo meat with rice wine drunk through bamboo tubes from a jar.These are but two of the many minority festivals, details of which are best obtained locally. You can visit http://www.indochinaodysseytours.com to get more information about this.

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