The festival of Trung Thu takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month each year. This is the most popular Vietnamese festival with families, and is one of the most fun festivals for visitors to Da Nang to be part of.
Trung Thu is all about children. The entire day is given over to entertaining youngsters, and ensuring they have a wonderful day. The basis of this festival dates back to the time when families would spend many hours each day out in the fields, with little time left to take care of their children. Children were left to themselves to find their own fun. The concept behind Trung Thu is that for this one day a year, parents would ignore everything apart from making their children happy.
Traditionally, Trung Thu was celebrated by a lantern lit procession which took place at dawn. The lanterns were seen to represent brightness, something that the parents wished to bring to the lives of their offspring. Although modern day Trung Thu is still begun with this simple procession, the actual festival which follows has changed drastically over the decades. This is especially true of major cities such as Da Nang, where parents have access to a whole host of entertainment options for their children which they previously did not have.
During Trung Thu the streets of Da Nang become flooded with families and children, usually travelling to or from some activity, or simply enjoying interacting with others. Public parks are usually full, with food and drinks stalls plying their trade and various side shows set up for children, including fun fairs in the larger parks. Overall, Trung Thu is a wonderful day, and visitors who decide to experience it will no doubt come away with a smile upon their faces.
The festival of Quan Am (Avalokitesvara) takes place in Da Nang on the 19th day of the second lunar month each year. The festival itself is split into two distinctly separate parts. Firstly the actual Buddhist religious ceremony which prepares for the festival and then the actual festival itself.
The religious ceremony usually takes place on the 18th day of the second lunar month each year. This ceremony takes place in Da Nang and in several other cities across Vietnam. Religious leaders from of Hoa Hai, Hoa Quy and Bac My An will perform the actual rites, which involves reading of Buddhist religious texts and praying for the Vietnamese people to live a safe and happy life.
On the morning of the 19th day of the second lunar month, the festival opens with a simple ceremony, involving sutra chanting. This happens very early in the morning. The ceremony is performed in Quan Am (Avalokitesvara) and is to bring prosperity and peace to the people of Vietnam. The procession of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue also takes place on the 19th day of the second lunar month. A palanquin is carried by a team of four people, which holds a carved statue made of stone, which depicts Avalokitesvara Bodhisttava sitting upon a lotus shaped throne.
On the final day of the festival the closing ceremony involves the giving of alms to wandering souls. The entire ceremony is dedicated to the god of spirits and death. Monks will pray for the souls of the dead to be freed from suffering, and for the souls of the living to be blessed with happiness.
The festival of Quan Am is predominantly a religious festival. This does not mean it is not a fascinating event for visitors to Da Nang to witness. No other festival on the Vietnamese calendar shows just how deeply religious the local population are as Quan Am does, so it is well worth witnessing.
Possibly the top yearly event on the Da Nang calendar is Tet Nguyen Dan. This is a nationwide celebration to bring in the New Year. The festival happens each year on the 30th day of the twelfth lunar month, and continues to the 3rd day of the first lunar month of the next year.
Tet is the most popular Vietnamese festivals with both local inhabitants and visitors alike. It celebrates the end of the old year, and the renewal associated with the New Year, winter ending and the regrowth associated with spring. Tet is also a major religious festival, and many Vietnamese people choosing this time of year to make a pilgrimage to their place of birth, visiting their family and honoring their ancestors.
Vietnamese people make small gifts of money to family and friends over the Tet holiday. And they make sure to visit young and old family members to wish them good luck and longevity. Many Vietnamese people, especially in the more tourist areas of Da Nang, dress up in traditional Vietnamese costumes before taking to the streets to celebrate Tet Nguyen Dan. This makes for an exciting spectacle and definitely something that should be captured on video or camera when possible.
Something that most visitors to Da Nang might miss, which is a traditional part of Tet Nguyen Dan for the locals, is the hanging of a traditional Vietnamese painting. The painting depicts a folk tale of two lovers who have been ignoring their responsibilities. The king decides to punish them by separating them on opposite banks of a river. Once a year, ravens bring a bridge to this part of the river, and they must wait a whole year to be reunited. They are so overwrought that all they can do is cry, and their tears become the rain which falls to the earth and makes the crops grow.