The Vietnamese have numerous national holidays and festivals, whose dates mostly follow the lunar calendar. In addition, provinces hold their own festivals and villages will hold their own rituals to honor the patron spirits of local temples. The most important festival of the year is Tet, celebrated on the first new moon of the year, usually in late January or early February. Tet rings in the New Year; it is also considered everybody's birthday.

People start afresh on Tet, paying off old debts, being on their best behaviour and wishing each other happiness, luck and prosperity. On the first day of the celebration, people visit their parents. Much of the Tet season is spent socializing and eating, always with the sound of firecrackers and the drumbeat of the dragon dance in the background. Children receive gifts of li xi, "lucky money" packaged in red envelopes. Streets are decorated with flowers and homes display the Cay Neu or Signal Tree. Supposed to keep away evil spirits, the tree is a bamboo pole with a basket on top that contains areca nuts, betel and woven bamboo. On the third day of Tet, families visit the graves of their ancestors and leave gifts of food.

In spring, Vietnamese celebrate Thanh Minh or Ancestors' Day. Graves are cleaned and whitewashed to please ancestors. Relatives are also remembered throughout the year on the anniversaries of their deaths. Families honour the deceased one with a meal that often features the deceased relative's favourite foods; family members offer a portion of the meal at the ancestral altar.

Many holidays and celebrations are connected to historical events. King Dinh Temple Festival marks the country's unification in the 10th century by King Dinh Tien Hoang. Liberation Day celebrates the anniversary of the liberation of Saigon in April 1975. Streets are filled with flags, and many cities hold parades.

Selected Vietnamese Holidays
January 19 - Feburary 20 Tet
February Lantern Festival
April Thanh Minh Day
The King Dinh Temple Festival
April 30 Liberation Day
May 7 Defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu
July 28 War Invalids and Martyrs Day
September 2 Independence/National Day

  Did you know?
Hà Bác province celebrates the Hoi Lim Festival, which is a courtship song contest between girls and boys.