Boat Racing Festival
This event is annually held on the 2nd of the Lunar January every year. Originally, it was organized to arouse a cheerful atmosphere for a new year and to pay tribute to the God of Water in hope that the God will give them a prosperous harvest. Nowadays, it also becomes a common sports usually played in local festivals to demonstrate collective efforts.
Cau Bong Festival
In case you stay in Hoi An on the 7th of the first Lunar month every year, make sure you attend Cau Bong Festival. Held at Tra Que Vegetables Village, the festival is organized to honor the town's ancestors who founded the vegetable planting business and to pray for an abundant crop ahead.
Hundreds of local families gather at the event with significant offerings to worship and pray for a bumper crop and prosperous life. Traditionally, after the oldest villagers open the ceremony, others come to the altar with flowers, fruits and spring chickens among many items to show their gratitude to the God. In addition, it’s common practice to have a competition in which combatants dig a hole and plant vegetables.
The event also allows farmers to introduce new produces and tourists to experience the local culture.
Nguyen Tieu Festival
Held annually on the 16th of the first Lunar month, Nguyen Tieu festival is one of the most important events in Hoi An communities, especially for Chinese people. Tet Nguyen Tieu originates from Chinese and has become an adopted official festival of Vietnamese.
As Nguyen means "first" and Tieu refers to "light", Nguyen Tieu Festival, also called Lantern Festival, is the first night of a full moon year. According to legends, the first night of a full moon every year used to see a Crowned Doctoral Candidate or Trang Nguyen in Vietnamese summoned to the capital to make poetry to the King.
During the festival, locals, particularly Chinese folks, go to pagodas, offer incense, pick fortune lots and pray for health, wealth and abundant crops. The town, meanwhile, is soaked with traditional games, glimmering lanterns, martial art demonstrations, calligraphy shows and of course tremendous cuisine.
Whale Worshipping Festival
For centuries, the Whale Festival in Quang Nam has been the most important and biggest water festival in Quang Nam. Held for two days in the second week of the Lunar March, the festival is organized to pay tribute to the Whale God and wish for safety and prosperity of the entire village.
On the first day of the festival, the elderly of the village are responsible for extending peace at the Whale Temple with non-seafood offerings. At dawn the following day, there is a procession of boats set in a formation on the sea in a show of sincere gratitude to the Whale God. Another notable component of the festival is the Vietnamese classical opera in which actors and actresses portray fishermen’s activities on the river with their acts.
As the most important sea festival, the event is so significant that all the fishing boats and villagers are expected to return to participate in the celebration, regardless of their location on the sea at that time.
Lady Thu Bon Festival
Lady Thu Bon Festival takes place annually from dawn to late evening on the 10th of Lunar February in Duy Xuyen district, Quang Nam province. The event is held to pay tribute to Lady Thu Bon, who is associated with love and protection from disasters and calamities.
Lady Thu Bon, also known as Lady Bo Bo, has long been considered a significant contributor to the agriculture and prosperity of the province. According to one legend, a man came to Thu Bon Temple to beg Thu Bon to help his wife during her difficult delivery. Sympathized and moved by his beseech, Thu Bon Lady turned into the man’s body, rushed quickly across a large field, arrived at the man’s home and touched the wife’s belly. The woman suddenly gave birth immediately and successfully.
There are many activities that take place during the festival. Participants can take part in worshipping ceremony, vehicular procession, human chess, “bai cho” art, folk song competition, sports tournament, cake making contest, tug of war fixtures among others. In the last night of the festival, locals and visitors alike can enjoy torch parade ceremony, lantern festival, campfire and Vietnamese opera performance.
However, none can draw interest and attention more than the star of the festival: the boat race. Before the race, all contestants attend a worshiping ceremony, kowtowing, offering incense and praying to the mausoleum of the lady at Thu Bon Temple.
Doan Ngo Festival
Besides the Lunar New Year, “Doan Ngo” Festival is the second most significant festival in Vietnam, through which one can learn more about Vietnamese values and spirit.
Also known as May Festival or Insect Killing Festival, the event is annually held on the 5th day of the 5th Lunar month. The name “Tet sau bo” derives from the fact that farmers, on this day, get rid of all pests to start growing their crops for the new season. Therefore, creatures and people must become stronger in both their health and their souls to overcome this. On this occasion, the whole family have to get up early and eat fermented sticky and fruits. The worshipping is held at noon, hour of Ngo. The tradition of eating dumplings, especially lye water dumplings, extends from the belief that the dumplings will cleanse one’s body of any unwanted “parasites”.
There are two traditionally irreplaceable dishes eaten during the festival: “Banh U” and “Rice Wine”. “Banh U” refers to pyramidal sticky rice cakes covered in banana leaves. Inside the cakes, beans and banana leaves’ essence are included to create a tasty flavor.
On the other hand, “Rice Wine” describes balls of fermented rice soaked in wine, a dish that is allegedly years old. According to an old tale, a long while ago, there were two intelligent and kind orphan brothers living together in a small village. Inhabiting in the same village, there were two snakes “Green Snake” and “White Snake”. Falling in love with the brothers, the snake spirits transformed into beautiful ladies and married to the brothers.
After the marriage, the evil snake spirits eroded the brothers’ health, causing the locals to suspect devilish presence in the house and worry about the two men. One day, a Taoist hermit passed by the village and heard about the situation. He conducted some spirit type tests and found out that the men’s house had a case of the evils. He then told the locals to feed a wine potion he brewed himself to the men. The brothers must eat the potion’s solids and liquids in the early morning of the next fifth day of the fifth lunar calendar. As soon as the men tucked into their special breakfast, their wives were turned into their real appearance of snakes, before disappearing in a puff of smoke, freeing the brothers. Since that day, people have eaten “ruou nep” on Killing the Insect Day, in the hope of driving away vile spirits.
The brewing process of Com Ruou is straightforward, but onerous. Firstly, farmers must harvest rice from a paddy, dry and pound the rice to keep intact its most nutritious part. Following is the steaming task. Rice is steamed for 30 minutes and left to cool down. The next part is to mix the steamed rice with yeast and the compound is allowed to ferment for two or three days.
Long Chu Festival
Deeply rooted in both cultural and religious beliefs, Long Chu Festival is one of the more fascinating events in Hoi An. The Festival is usually held on the 15th day of the 7th and 8th Lunar months of a year when the old season is leaving to pave a way for a new one. Long Chu or Royal Barge refers to a dragon-shaped boat that was used by Vietnamese Emperors during their leisure or patrolling tours. Dragon is the symbol of Emperors and Royal Family and also one of the four religious animals worshipped by the elderly.
A religious practice to protect the village from evil spirits, the Festival is uaully performed by Priests or Shamans. Their main responsibilities include touring the town to sticking superstitious charms on places where evil spirits allegedly inhabit, burning incense, putting amulets in the ghosts’ abode and casting the magic spells on the ghosts which are later on discarded into the sea.
Once the rituals are completed, parades and processions begin. Participating families enjoy a meal together, a variety of games and especially the Procession of Long Chu. The Procession refers to the transportation of a giant dragon shaped boat from the village to the sea so that it can be set afloat to be carried away by the tides. The move is said to signify the removal of evil spirits and ghosts from the village.
Mid Autumn Festival
Tet Trung Thu, as it is known in Vietnam, or the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, is a wonderful ancient festival that revolves around children. The festival, held annually on the 15th of Lunar August in Hoi An, helps create the most charming and picturesque night of the year, but the origin of the festival remains largely unknown.
The 15th day of the 8th Lunar Month traditionally witnesses the festive arrangement and the moon’s lowest position on its orbit to Earth. As a result, the moon on this day appears brighter and larger than usual, making watching it at night a joy to behold. According to some ancient manuscripts, the Festival dates back around 14,000 years to a reign of a Chinese Emperor. The Emperor was said to often wish to visit the Palace on the Moon and with the help of a magician, he was taken to the Moon and welcomed by a lot of beautiful fairies. Admiring their dance, which is called Thuong Vu Y, he realized that there were similarities between Nghe Thuong Vu Y and Ba La Mon styles. Consequently, he combined the two dances and introduced the new style to everyone in countries under his ruling. The tradition of watching the moon, accompanied by the dance and songs, later became a traditional event in the Mid-Autumn celebration.
On the night of Lunar August 15th, the streets are teeming with people wandering around and buying festival treasures. Children parade on the streets, singing and carrying colorful lanterns of different sizes and shapes. There are fish, rabbits, carps, stars and butterflies spinning away when candles are inserted in the lanterns, representing the Earth circling the Sun. In well-off families, the mid-autumn banquet is also an opportunity to show off their nubile girls’ cooking abilities.
A crucial component of a Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival is lion dance. “Lions” performed by male athletes perform in front of houses as a wish of luck while the Lord Earth, or “Ong Dia” in Vietnamese, dances around the dragon to urge it on.
Besides the lion dance, it is customary to offer Banh Trung Thu (boxes of moon cakes) to family and special friends. The cakes, which are traditionally very rich in taste, are filled with lotus seeds, ground beans and orange peels and have a bright yoke in the center to represent the moon. “Banh deo” is the white cake, made of sticky rice and filled with a sweet mixture of lotus seeds, pumpkin seeds or green beans. “Banh nuong” is the brown cake and has a salty taste, it is made of a mixture of egg, pork fat, fried onion, peanut and lemon leaves. Both can be in round or square shapes.
Whether the Mid-Autumn Festival is organized in the city or countryside, its preserved tradition is reflected in the preparation of food trays to contemplate the moon, in lantern marching, lion and unicorn dances, and even in the way the children play different games, such as hide-and-seek. In the bright moonlight, clear sky and fresh environment, everybody is relaxed and filled with pure and detached joy.