Calendar and holidays

Lunar calendar, solar calendar and Zodiac signs

The lunar calendar is more of a link with tradition: we use it in particular for the cult of ancestors, traditional and Buddhist holidays. It is made of 12 months of 29 or 30 days.


The Vietnamese zodiacal calendar is based on a cycle of 12 years, where each year matches an animal. If you were born in January, you belong to the previous year of your birth year. Since we reason in lunar year and each of them start on the Tet, generally around the end of January and beginning of February.


For example the zodiacal cycle going from 2000 to 2017 is the following:

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005    
Dragon Snake Horse Goat Monkey Chicken    
Tan Ran Ngua De Khi Ga    
  2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011  
  Dog Pig Rat Buffalo Tiger Rabit  
  Cho Heo Chuoc Trau Ho Tho  
And   2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
etc...   Dragon Snake Horse Goat Monkey

From here on, you can find what your zodiacal animal is : add 12, then 12, then 12 again…to your own birth year !



The Tet : from the 1st until the 7th day of the first new moon


The Tet is the biggest holiday celebration in Viet Nam. At this time of the year family reunions and reunifications are so important that it becomes very complicated to move around and travel. Based on the lunar calendar, the Tet falls between the 19th of January and the 20th of February of the Gregorian calendar.


Popular beliefs say that during Tet, a year ‘’assessment’’ is made by the house guardian spirits. These latters bring those to the heavens to the Emperor of Jade, who then decides the fate of the family for the year to come. People have to make as much noise as they can (firecrackers, music…) in order to keep the evil spirits away. The first person stepping in the house on that day is of crucial importance: it has to be a wealthy married man with children in order to bring good omen to the family.


For this holiday lasts one week, houses have to be perfectly clean. On top of everything, we celebrate the guardian spirits of the house and our ancestors then we plant the cay neu tree in order to keep the spirits away: it is either a kumquat tree, a peach tree or an apricot tree. The Tet celebration is linked to its own culinary tradition: all Vietnamese people from the North and South of the country eat sticky rice cakes banh day and banh chung, often served with mang, a dish of boiled bamboo shoots with fried pork in nuoc mam sauce, as well as dragon fruits and watermelons. Sometimes, we also eat some mut, spicy candied fruits.


Traditional holidays

Mis à part le Têt, d’autres fêtes traditionnelles sont célébrées au Viêt Nam. Elles sont toujours référencées sur le calendrier lunaire et correspondent généralement à des offrandes à Bouddha, aux Anciens ou à d’autres croyances.

Apart from the Tet, other traditional holidays are celebrated in Viet Nam. They always are referenced on the lunar calendar and generally match with offerings to Buddha, to the Elders or to other beliefs.


The day of the dead: 5th day of the 3rd lunar month

Offerings to the Ancestors are made among all the Vietnamese families, it is an homage as much as a request for protection.


Birth, illumination and death of Buddha: the 8th day of the 4th lunar month

Processions are held in all the pagodas to honor Buddha the spiritual guide.


Summer solstice: 5th day of the 5th lunar month

Offerings are made to spirits, ghosts and to the god of death allowing us to hope for protection and benevolence.


The day of the wandering souls: 15th day of the 7th lunar month

Offerings are made in houses and pagodas for the sake of wandering and forgotten souls.


Mid-autumn festival: 15th day of the 8th lunar month

During this celebration, the Vietnamese people commonly eat moon-shaped sticky rice cakes filled with lotus seeds, watermelons, peanut, duck egg yolk, grapes and sugar.


Confucius’ birthday: 28th day of the 9th lunar month

Confucius’ birthday is commonly celebrated by making offerings in temples dedicated to him.


Civil celebrations and banked holidays

Finally, apart from traditional celebrations, others have been established by the government and come directly from History. They are all referenced by the Gregorian or solar calendar.


New Year: 1st of January

Like the rest of the world, we do celebrate New Year at the beginning of a new solar calendar.


The Anniversary of the foundation of the Vietnamese Communist Party: 3rd of February (founded in 1930).


The Anniversary of the Liberation of Saigon : the 30th of April and Labor Day : 1st of May
The Vietnamese people can enjoy two days off in a row in order to go back to their hometown provinces. During that time we can witness massive logjam of cars, it is the second most important holiday period after the Tet.


Ho Chi Minh’s birthday: 19th May

We celebrate Uncle Ho’s birthday on the 19th of May, but another big moment of reverence exists on the 3rd of September, even if his exact day of death was the day before…


National Day: 2nd of September

…However, calendar peculiarities make it difficult to celebrate both the Independence of the Country…and the mourning of the ‘’Uncle of the People’’ on the same day.


In Viet Nam, if a banked holiday falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, a day off is automatically postpone on Friday or Monday…!