When planning your Vietnam holiday, as well as considering the great holiday packages available, check the dates of festivals – they’re well worth planning around and being there for.
The Vietnamese calendar is guided by the Chinese lunar calendar, which means the corresponding dates on our Gregorian calendar change, so it’s a good idea to review a current lunar festival guide to ensure you’re planning the right dates.
Timing is always important so for your Vietnam holiday, be mindful that the most important celebration is the Vietnamese New Year. Known as Tet, short for Tết Nguyên Đán, it celebrates Spring’s arrival so it’s often called Hội xuân (Spring Festival). The celebration of Tet is the culture’s longest holiday and may last up to seven days. Usually falling in January or February, the new year will be celebrated in 2018 on February 18, marking the start of the Year of the Dog, following 2017’s Year of the Rooster.
For this auspicious occasion, many customs are observed including preparing special holiday food such as bánh chưng (sticky rice cake), bánh dày (glutinous rice cake wrapped in banana leaf pieces), dried young bamboo soup (canh măng) and giò (fried pie). Visiting someone’s home on the first day and family reunions are other popular customs as is ancestor worship, giving lucky money to children and elderly people, and opening shops. Families prepare by decorating their home with a small branch of peach flowers and placing a plate filled with five types of fruits on their ancestors’ altar.
On the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, the Perfume Pagoda Festival takes place (the next one is 2 March 2018). Thousands of pilgrims visit Vietnam’s most famous Buddhist pilgrimage site, praying at the sacred cave for a prosperous year ahead. Devotees board boats, passing picturesque rice paddies and limestone mountains, then alight to walk past historical shrines and up hundreds of stone steps.
Many toys, candies, fruit, and entertainment make the Mid-Autumn Festival – Tết Trung Thu – a favourite with children. Taking place on the 15th day of the eighth month – 4 October 2017, and 24 September in 2018, Mid-Autumn parties are decorated with amazing lanterns and serve cakes such as banh deo and banh nuong, shaped like fish and the moon. Also you’ll see colourful Lion dancers going from house to house, performing.
In the former imperial capital of Hue, a biennial (once every two years) week-long festival is celebrated. The Hue Festival features theatre, puppetry, dance, music and acrobatics performed around the city however most activities are performed in the Hue Citadel grounds.
A more frequent celebration, that you’re more likely to catch, happens each month in charming Hoi An. Every full moon, candles are put in colourful paper lanterns which are floated into the river for the pretty Lantern Festival. On that night, it’s free to enter Hoi An town’s old attractions with all motorised traffic banned , ensuring it becomes an amazing venue for Vietnamese traditional arts, music and for the region’s famous food.
So do your research on the lunar festival guide as well as check for great value-for-money Vietnam holiday packages to ensure your Vietnam holiday is your best holiday yet!
People in Vietnam
Over 90.5 million people live in Vietnam, a population almost exclusively made of indigenous Viet (Kinh) people, with the remaining 10 percent made of 53 other ethnic groups such as the Cham, Chinese, Hmong, Tay, Nung, Muong, Khmer, Ede, and Hoa with a sprinkling of expats in urban areas.
Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are the most densely-populated but most of the population reside in rural areas.
Shopping in Vietnam
Vietnam is a shopper’s paradise with its variety of quality goods at tempting prices, which are open to further bargaining at shops, stalls and shopping arcades everywhere. Take home a wide variety of handicrafts, including lacquerware, mother-of-pearl inlay, ceramics, bamboo products, jewellery, silk goods, intricately carved statues and paintings. Bespoke tailoring in quality silk and textiles is popular too, with many requests for the national dress ao dai.
Nearly 500 traditional Vietnamese dishes are recognised, ranging from exotic meats such as bat and cobra, to a variety of fish, vegetables, spices and sauces. Central Vietnamese food is spicy, while the Northern Vietnamese cuisine is milder; the Southern Vietnamese favour a peppery flavour to their dishes, with Vietnam being the world’s largest producer of the spice. Be sure to try the ubiquitous pho in Vietnam, a rice noodle dish served in a rich broth made of sliced pork, beef or chicken.
Going to Vietnam
Flights to Vietnam are served by most major airlines and land at the international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City is the nation’s largest airport, which handles 75% of international passenger traffic. Vietnam Airlines is the state-owned airline.