The Lunar New Year is the most important spring festival. It has become so much a part of spring and cultural life that Vietnamese, wherever they may be, become nostalgic for the homeland each year when it arrives.
Here are a few other spring festivals we though you and your family might enjoy this season:
1. Huong Pagoda Festival
Together with the Bai Dinh and Yen Tu Pagoda Festivals, the Huong Pagoda Festival is among the greatest Buddhist festivals in northern Vietnam. It plays an important role in the spiritual life of Vietnamese people in general and Buddhists in particular.
The pagoda is located in the My Duc District 70 kilometres south of Hanoi. The festival lasts for three months from the first through the third month of the Lunar Calendar. The official opening day for it is on the 6th day of the first Lunar month.
There are many interesting pagodas, caves and grottoes in Huong Son including Long Van, Tuyet Son and Hinh Bong. The Ong Bay (Sung Sam) Cave, 2km from Long Van Pagoda, still retains traces of ancient people from some tens of thousands of years ago.
Unlike any other places, Huong Pagoda harmonizes the characters of a Buddhist architectural complex with impressive natural beauty. Coming here, tourists have a chance to experience a boisterous atmosphere of a spring festival amidst beautiful landscapes.
2. Yen Tu Festival
The Yen Tu Festival is held at Yen Tu Mountain, Uong Bi Town, Quang Ninh Province and runs from the 10th day of the first lunar month to the end of the third lunar month.
Yen Tu is a pagoda complex that comprises 11 pagodas and several shrines and towers. It used to be the centre of Buddhism of Dai Viet (‘Great Viet’, the former name of Vietnam under the Ly Dynasty in the 11th century). The Buddhist sect of Truc Lam also originated here. It is the highest place is Dong Pagoda (nearly 1,100 metres above sea level).
Annually, thousands visit Yen Tu to pray for good luck and health for themselves and their families during the New Year holidays. Many Vietnamese believe that if they can climb to the top of Yen Tu Mountain (Dong Pagoda), they will receive more good things throughout the year.
Along the road to the peak, there is an airy and holy atmosphere of pagoda, stream and forest.
3. Giong Festival
The Giong Festival is held from the 6th to the 12th day of the fourth lunar month every year at Phu Dong (or Giong) Village in Hanoi’s outlying district of Gia Lam, as well as in Phu Ninh Village in Soc Son District. The main festival day is on the 9th day of the month.
The festival celebrates Saint Giong, a legendary Vietnamese hero who fought against the northern invaders. It has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humankind.
The festival has many rituals events, including incense offering, parade, and flower offering.
4. Firecracker Festival
Annually, from the 4th to 6th day of the first lunar months, large numbers of visitors gather on Dong Ky village in northern Bac Ninh province, about 30km from Hanoi, to celebrate the traditional firecracker festival.
Hundreds of villagers carry two massive representations of firecrackers, which are engraved with the four mythical creatures (dragon, lion, tortoise and phoenix) to the communal house for the ritual.
Four respected elders from each of the four hamlets in the village are selected to perform the ritual, praying for good weather, bumper crops and prosperity.
To perform a solemn ritual, more than 400 people, including 300 unmarried men, are mobilised to support the procession. Folk games such as human chess, badminton, volleyball, martial arts and cock fighting are also held during the event.
During the festival, visitors have a chance to enjoy Quan Ho (Duet) folk singing, which is recognized as the world intangible cultural heritage.
5. Xoan Festival
The Xoan singing festival, which is part of the Hung Kings Temple Festival, takes place from the 7th to 10th day of the first lunar month in the northern province of Phu Tho.
The event aims to honour a female general during the past struggle against foreign invaders and popularize Xoan singing which has been recognized by UNESCO as a world intangible heritage needing urgent protection.
Originiating in the Hung King Dynasty, Xoan singing has now now become popular among local residents who set up groups of 15 to 18 artists aged 16-18 under the guide of the elder singers.
6. Lim Festival
In the first lunar month of the New Year, people flock to Lim Festival in northern Bac Ninh Province to enjoy the sweet melodies of Quan ho (love duet songs).
The event opens on the 13th day in Lim town of Tien Du district, with the centre of the festival at Lim Hill.
The most striking feature of this festival is the procession of four villages including Lo Bao, Dinh Ca, Due Nam and Due Khanh in Noi Due Commune with the participation of over 800 people.
Many traditional games also take place during the festival such as swinging, wrestling, beating earthenware pots, blind’s man bluff, and human chess.
7. Ba Chua Kho Temple Festival
Ba Chua Kho Temple Festival is one of the largest of its kind in the northern region. The event is held on the 14th day of the first lunar month in Co Me Village, Vu Ninh Commune, Bac Ninh Province to worship Ba Chua Kho (The Queen of Stock) and four gods: Thien phu, Dia phu, Thuy phu, and Nhac phu.
The festival includes incense offering ceremony, custom of borrowing money from her (only symbolizing) to pray for property and good luck.
8. Hung King Temple Festival
Hung King Temple Festival is a national event offering incense in honour of Hung Kings, who were instrumental in the founding of the nation.
The worship of Hung Kings originates from Hung Kings dynasty in the belief that all Vietnamese people have the same origin ‘Dragon’s children and Fairy’s grand-children’ and also expresses Vietnamese philosophy “When drinking water, remember the source” and the spirit of great national unity.
As a spiritual ritual to pray for peace and prosperity for the country, the practice of worshipping Hung Kings also reminds the Vietnamese of constantly consolidating their unity and protecting and helping one another in different circumstances.
9. Ba Den Mountain Festival
The Spring Festival of Ba Den Mountain in southern Tay Ninh province is an annual event organized during the first month of a lunar year. The main ceremonies are carried out on the 18th night and the 19th day of that month.
On the days of the festival, the monks of highest ranks in Ba Den Temple carry out the Moc Duc Ceremony (To bathe the Goddess) at midnight, when the amount of light in the main hall is lowest.
The Spring Festival on Ba Den Mountain is not only a religious event but it is also a token of the deep cultural values of Tay Ninh.
10. Long Tong Festival
Long Tong is the biggest agricultural festival in the northern mountainous region, which consists of the Bac Kan, Thai Nguyen, Tuyen Quang, Cao Bang, Lang Son, and Ha Giang provinces.
Recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage, the Long Tong festival features traditional culture of Tay ethnic minority group. It takes place at Pu Bao temple in Lam Binh district with the offering of trays of local specialties to the gods to thank them for good crops and to ask for their blessings to enjoy favourable weather conditions and have a comfortable and happy life in the New Year.
Prior to the opening of the festival, local people decorate their houses and prepare food to welcome guests. Each household brings some traditional dishes to the event to demonstrate the cooking skills of women.