As an orient country, or, to be more specific, a country in Southeast Asia, Vietnam celebrates the same best times of the year with its neighbors, namely China or Korea, but also has its own. Discover the most popular festivals and public holidays in Vietnam as well as other lesser-known ones.
In this article, we break down festivals and public holidays in Vietnam into four major categories – national holidays, observances of honorable professions, cultural festivals, and imported special days.
National Festivals and Public Holidays in Vietnam (with days off work and school)
The following holidays are major celebrations of the whole nation when all Vietnamese can enjoy time off work to go on a vacation or reunite with their family.
|January 1st||Western New Year|
|Late Jan or early Feb||1st – 7th in the Lunar Calendar: Tet Holiday|
|April||Hung King Festival|
|April 30th||Liberation Day|
|May 1st||International Workers’ Day|
|September 2nd||National Day|
Tet Holiday (Lunar New Year Festival or Tet for short)
- From the 1st to 5th (or even 10th) of the first month of the lunar calendar
- Celebrates the beginning of the Lunar New Year
A refreshing time when living creatures bloom and the air gets magically fresher and full of life. It takes place around late January or early February in the solar calendar (the exact dates vary according to the lunar calendar) and is truly a holiday bonanza. Everybody typically has a whole week off. The break is even longer for pupils and university students, lasting up to a colossal 2-week off. Needless to say, Tet is the quintessential holiday season of the year for the Vietnamese, and also for other Asian countries like China, Malaysia, and the two Koreas.
During Tet, big cities like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi see a sudden decrease in their immediate population because all the immigrants will take the train back to their hometown (in other provinces) to reunite with their families. That said, big cities are still favorite holiday destinations for people from the satellite towns.
Tet traditions and cuisine are diverse and tantalizing, starring brilliant flowers as decorations and stunning dishes of pork and chicken, sticky rice cakes (banh chung, banh tet), pickled vegetables of all kinds and so much more. Festive decorations in the major streets are also a charm too.
Vietnamese flower streets on Tet Holiday
Read about Tet Holiday, its rituals and cuisine here
Celebrating the Lunar New Year doesn’t mean Vietnamese ignore the New Year’s Day of the solar calendar which is, as a matter of fact, the main calendar in use because we all need to globalize and partner with our foreign friends, obviously. On New Year’s Day (January 1st), you can expect to see happy new looks of shops and stores along all of the streets, although predictably this holiday does not mean as much to the Vietnamese as the lunar one.
Hung Kings’ Festival or Hung Kings’ Death Commemoration
- From the 8th to 11th day of the third lunar month, around April in the solar calendar
- Honors the first 18 kings of Vietnam who successfully established an independent, proud kingdom of Lac Viet people (the original name of Vietnamese) and tactfully managed it against all odds
Why commemorate “death” but not “birth”? Well, as you may or may not know, death has a special meaning in the cultures of some Asian countries like China, Japan, and also Vietnam, even more, special than birthdays. We mourn the death of the great leaders of our country, so we saved this day as an occasion to pay homage to them every year.
People in the country get a day off on the 10th and may choose to have a warm family gathering. But the real festival takes place in Phu Tho Province, the hometown of Hung Kings, and features dynamic activities like traditional sports competitions and cooking sticky rice cakes competitions, along with typical rituals of presenting offerings and burning incense to the main temples in Den Hung Historical Site. Offerings are carefully prepared by provinces across the country from the best of their locally grown fruits and delicacies.
- April 30th
- Celebrates the reunion of North Vietnam and South Vietnam in 1975 when the Vietnam War ended
This day is of great significance in Vietnam, probably only second to Tet Holiday. Splendid decorations in the streets and national flags with their brilliant red color are telling signs of the day. If you wish to get to know more about this part of Vietnam’s history, we recommend you visit the Independence Palace in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
May Day or International Workers’ Day
- May 1st
- Appreciates the importance of workers and the value of working
Working diligently, with different senses adapted for different age groups, to contribute to society as a whole is a praiseworthy attribute. This holiday often goes with the Reunification Day on 30 April to create a holiday combo for Vietnamese workers and students who take this chance to have a getaway to beaches and islands or simply return to their hometown.
- September 2nd
- Is celebrated as the day when President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence in Ba Dinh Square in the capital, Hanoi, in 1945
On this day, the president officially announced that Vietnam was an independent country and not any other country’s property, moving millions of Vietnamese present at the Square at the time. This day is known as “Quoc Khanh” in Vietnamese, which literally means the launch of a country, rather than “Doc Lap” which is the closest translation of “independence”.
Other major observances that are celebrated nationwide although no days off are offered are:
International Women’s Day
- March 8th
- A special celebration for the women when they are showered with wishes and gifts from their beloveds
Full Moon Festival (or Mid-Autumn Festival)
- The 15th day of the 8th lunar month (around September)
- Full Moon Festival is an important occasion for families gathering and alternatively seen as a “Tet” (holiday) for children, a chance for them to showcase their colorful lanterns gifted by their parents
Vietnamese Women’s Day
- October 20th (Yes, Vietnamese women enjoy 2 special days just for them!)
- Commemorates the foundation date of the Vietnamese Women’s Union in 1930, marking the birth of a governmental organization that fights for women’s rights and self-development. A day to thank all the beloved women in your life for their immense patience, unconditional love, and unwavering support.
Full Moon Festival (Trung Thu) in Vietnam
Observances of Honorable Professions (or Honoring Days)
There are specific days in the year that which Vietnamese dedicate to “special” people in particular professions whom they think deserve all the praise and respect in the world and who play a crucial role in the development of society. These include Teachers’ Day (November 20th), Doctors’ Day (February 27th), Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day (July 27th), and Military Force’s Day (December 22nd). On these days, people send their warmest regards and best wishes to their respective professionals.
As a visitor to the country, you’ll probably notice the difference in the streets on Teachers’ Day (November 20th), with pupils flocking to their school for a big ceremony in the schoolyard or the “bloom” of one-off flower and gift vendors near the areas of schools. That suffices to say Teachers’ Day is a big deal in Vietnam, although it’s not a public holiday that allows the whole nation to have a day off or anything. But good news for the students, no classes on that day!
Young kids perform a lovely choreography to send thanks to their teachers in the Teachers’ Day ceremony
Cultural Festivals in Vietnam
The best of all cultural festivals in Vietnam happen around Tet Holiday (Lunar New Year Festival) and are mostly celebrated among members of ethnic groups or residents of certain provinces.
In general, there are countless unique and idiosyncratic festivals across the nation. Most of them are based in remote areas like Central Highlands (Tay Nguyen) and North West (Tay Bac, with its iconic city – Sapa) where most ethnic groups reside, or in certain provinces with a time-honored tradition like buffalo wrestling or long-standing artistic flairs like singing and traditional dancing. There seem to be more distinctive festivals in northern provinces than in central and southern ones.
Here we pick out four phenomenal, majestic festivals in North, Central, and South Vietnam to give you an overall picture.
Lieu Doi Wrestling Festival (Hoi Vat Lieu Doi)
- Northern Vietnam – Lieu Doi Village, Thanh Liem Commune, Ha Nam Province (around 60 km from Hanoi)
- From the 5th to the 10th day of the first lunar month (around early February)
Wrestlers must be at least 16 years old. Winners win a meager sum of money but still fight for the honor that the title brings. A special ritual dictates that fathers of the newest baby boys in the village have to wrestle against each other in lieu of their sons. Even young kids can compete, but of a light-hearted nature, and just as a way adults let them live their passion of showcasing strength to myriad spectators.
Lieu Doi Wrestling Festival
Hoi Giong Soc Son Festival
- Northern Vietnam – Soc Son District, Hanoi
- The 6th day of the first lunar month
This event celebrates a human god in Vietnam’s history and mythology called “Thanh Giong” (God Giong) who attained immense power within a short period of time and successfully fought invaders off the borders of Vietnam, protecting the nation’s territory. The Soc Son Festival right in the capital city features young men in vibrant-looking red and yellow outfits, a giant man-made elephant, and a slew of both young and old attendees.
Hoi Giong Soc Son Festival
O Loan Boat Racing Festival (Le hoi dua thuyen dam O Loan)
- Central Vietnam – O Loan Lagoon, Phu Yen Province
- The 7th day of the first lunar month
This festival is meant as wishes for a lucrative fishing year. Mixed-age groups can team up for the race and women are also avid competitors.
O Loan Boat Racing Festival
God of the Sea Festival (Le hoi Nghinh Ong)
- in various regions of Central-South and Southern Vietnam like Vung Tau City where fishing is a major means of living
- takes place at different times, depending on the regions, usually some month in the second half of the lunar new year
Fishermen and their families perform formal rituals in bright-colored outfits (red and yellow because these colors symbolize wealth and luck) to express gratitude and send their prayers to the God of the sea, hoping for a lucky year in their job.
God of the Sea Festival
Imported Festivals and Public Holidays in Vietnam
A number of international celebrations have wormed their way into Vietnam and gained a remarkable following in the nation. These include Valentine’s Day, White Valentine, International Women’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas Day (besides being a religious holiday for Christians in Vietnam).
Around late December, Christmas decorations are ubiquitous across the streets of Vietnam, especially in big cities, creating a sparkling and delicate look for modern landscapes. Meanwhile, Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day are advantageous business opportunities for one-shot flower and gift vendors along the streets.
Summary of Festivals and Public Holidays in Vietnam
The true festive season for all Vietnamese is Tet, but other cultural festivals like wrestling, boat racing, and God of the Sea festivals appear much more stunning and exceptional, wowing people with their exceptional grandeur. You should really think about planning a visit and experience the local fun firsthand!