Exploring the Rich Traditions of Vietnam or A Dive into Vietnamese Culture and Traditions

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By Erica Silverstein

Vietnam is a country rich in cultural traditions that have been preserved and passed down for generations. From its vibrant festivals to its unique customs, Vietnamese traditions play a significant role in the everyday lives of its people.

One of the most well-known Vietnamese traditions is Tet, the Lunar New Year celebration. This festival marks the beginning of the new year and is a time for family reunion and paying respects to ancestors. During Tet, families gather to exchange well wishes, enjoy traditional foods, and participate in various festive activities.

Another important tradition in Vietnamese culture is the respect and veneration of ancestors. Vietnamese people hold a deep reverence for their ancestors and believe in the importance of maintaining strong connections with their past. This can be seen in practices such as ancestor worship and the construction of ancestral altars in homes.

The traditional dress in Vietnam, known as the “ao dai,” is also a symbol of Vietnamese cultural identity. The ao dai is a long, form-fitting dress that is worn by both men and women on special occasions. It is characterized by its elegant design and vibrant colors, showcasing the beauty and grace of Vietnamese fashion.

These are just a few examples of the many traditions that make up the rich tapestry of Vietnamese culture. Whether it’s celebrating Tet, honoring ancestors, or wearing the ao dai, these traditions are an integral part of Vietnamese identity and continue to be cherished by the Vietnamese people.

Vietnamese Traditions

Vietnamese culture is rich in traditions that have been passed down through generations. These traditions play a significant role in the daily life of the Vietnamese people and reflect their beliefs, values, and history. Here are some of the most prominent traditions in Vietnamese culture:


Tet, also known as the Lunar New Year, is the most important and beloved festival in Vietnam. It marks the beginning of the year according to the lunar calendar and is a time for family reunions, ancestor worship, and paying respects to elders. During Tet, people decorate their homes, exchange gifts, and prepare special dishes.

Wedding Ceremonies

Weddings in Vietnam are elaborate and often involve several ceremonies. Traditional Vietnamese weddings typically include a betrothal ceremony, a procession of the groom’s family to the bride’s house, an exchange of gifts, a wedding ceremony, and a reception. The color red, symbolizing luck and happiness, is usually prominent in wedding decorations.

Ancestor Worship

Ancestor worship is a deeply rooted tradition in Vietnamese culture. Vietnamese people believe in the importance of honoring and paying respects to their ancestors. They believe that the spirits of their ancestors continue to exist and can influence their lives. Ancestor altars are common in Vietnamese homes, where offerings such as food, incense, and flowers are made.

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also called the Moon Festival, is a celebration of the harvest season and a time to appreciate the beauty of the moon. During this festival, children carry lanterns, enjoy mooncakes, and participate in various activities such as lion dances and lantern parades. The festival is an occasion for family gatherings and is especially loved by children.

These are just a few examples of the many traditions that are deeply ingrained in Vietnamese culture. These traditions not only provide a sense of identity and belonging for the Vietnamese people but also serve as a link between the past and the present, preserving their cultural heritage for future generations to cherish.

Lunar New Year Celebration

The Lunar New Year, also known as Tet, is the most important traditional festival in Vietnam. It is based on the lunar calendar and falls on the same day as the Chinese New Year.

Tet is a time for families to come together and celebrate. In the days leading up to the festival, people clean their houses and decorate them with colorful flowers and traditional decorations. The most common flower used for decoration is the apricot blossom, which symbolizes luck and prosperity.

During Tet, people also visit their ancestors’ graves to pay their respects and offer food and incense. This is an important ritual to honor their ancestors and ask for their blessings for the coming year.

One of the most significant traditions of Tet is the giving of lucky money. Elders give children small red envelopes filled with money, which symbolizes good luck and prosperity for the year ahead.

Another important aspect of the Lunar New Year celebration is the food. Traditional dishes such as banh chung (sticky rice cake) and banh tet (cylindrical sticky rice cake) are prepared and shared among family members. These dishes symbolize the Earth and Heaven respectively, and it is believed that eating them brings good luck and blessings.

Fireworks and dragon dances are also common during Tet. Fireworks are believed to scare away evil spirits, while dragon dances bring good luck and fortune.

Overall, the Lunar New Year celebration is a time of joy, reunion, and the welcoming of a new year full of hope and blessings. It is a significant tradition that reflects the rich cultural heritage of Vietnam.

Wedding Customs and Rituals

In Vietnamese culture, wedding ceremonies are rich in tradition and symbolism. Weddings are seen as a significant event in the lives of the couple and their families, and great care is taken to ensure that the celebration is meaningful and auspicious.

One of the most important elements of a Vietnamese wedding is the matchmaking process, often involving the couple’s parents. They will seek out an astrologer to determine if the couple’s birth dates and times are compatible. If the astrologer gives their approval, the couple’s parents will exchange gifts and set a date for the wedding.

On the day of the wedding, the groom’s family will visit the bride’s family with gifts, including betel leaves, areca nuts, and traditional wedding cakes. This ceremony is known as “danh ngon” and is a way for the groom’s family to seek the bride’s family’s permission and blessing for the marriage.

The wedding ceremony itself typically takes place at the bride’s family home or a separate venue. The couple will kneel before an altar and pay respect to their ancestors by lighting incense and bowing. They will also exchange vows and rings in the presence of their families and friends.

Following the ceremony, there is often a reception where guests join in the celebration with traditional Vietnamese cuisine and entertainment. Guests may present gifts to the couple and participate in customs such as the “chuoi ngay vang,” where the bride and groom sit on a decorated stage and receive good wishes and red envelopes containing money.

Throughout the wedding day, the color red is highly symbolic and considered lucky. The bride will typically wear a red traditional ao dai dress, while the groom may wear a red scarf or tie. The color red is believed to bring happiness and prosperity to the couple’s marriage.

Overall, Vietnamese wedding customs and rituals are meaningful and steeped in tradition. They serve as a way to honor the couple’s families and ancestors and to bring good fortune to the newlyweds as they start their life together.

Tet Trung Thu – Mid-Autumn Festival

The Tet Trung Thu, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is one of the most important traditional holidays in Vietnam. It is held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, which usually falls in September or early October.

The festival is primarily celebrated to honor children and is often called the Children’s Festival. It is a time for families to come together and show their love and appreciation for their children. The festival also symbolizes the end of the harvest season and is a time for people to give thanks for the abundance of food and crops.

One of the most significant traditions of Tet Trung Thu is the process of making and giving mooncakes. Mooncakes are small pastries filled with sweet fillings such as lotus seed paste, red bean paste, or even egg yolks. These treats are often given as gifts to family members, friends, and colleagues to express love and respect.

During the festival, children take part in lantern processions. They carry colorful lanterns of various shapes and sizes, often in the form of animals or traditional symbols. The lanterns are believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. The children parade through the streets, singing songs and displaying their lanterns with pride. It is a beautiful and joyful sight to behold.

Another popular activity during Tet Trung Thu is the lion dance. Dancers dressed as lions perform intricate and acrobatic movements, accompanied by the rhythmic beat of traditional drums and cymbals. The lion dance is believed to bring good luck and fortune, and it is a highlight of the festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for families to gather and enjoy a special meal together. Traditional dishes such as sticky rice cakes, fruits, and various types of tea are served. It is also a time for storytelling and playing traditional games such as blindfolded pot-hitting and dragon dancing.

Overall, Tet Trung Thu is a time of joy, love, and gratitude. It brings families and communities together to celebrate traditions, honor children, and give thanks for the abundance of life. It is a truly magical and meaningful festival in Vietnamese culture.

Ancestor Worship and Death Rituals

Ancestor worship is an important aspect of Vietnamese culture and is deeply rooted in the country’s traditions. Vietnamese people believe that their ancestors continue to have a presence in the physical world, and they hold deep respect and reverence for their deceased loved ones.

Death rituals in Vietnam follow a series of customs and traditions that vary depending on the region and individual beliefs. Generally, when a person passes away, their family will arrange a funeral service and invite friends, relatives, and neighbors to pay their respects.

During the funeral, mourners dress in white and bring offerings such as food, flowers, and incense to honor the deceased. They participate in rituals and ceremonies led by a Buddhist monk or a Taoist priest, depending on the family’s religious affiliation.

After the funeral, the deceased is usually buried or cremated. Vietnamese people believe that the final resting place of their loved ones is crucial, and they often put great effort into selecting a suitable burial spot or urn. The grave or urn is frequently visited, with families commemorating important anniversaries or participating in annual ancestor worship ceremonies.

Ancestor worship plays a significant role in Vietnamese family life. In many homes, there is an ancestor altar where offerings are made on a daily basis. These offerings typically include fresh fruits, flowers, and burning incense. Families gather around the altar during important occasions, such as the Lunar New Year, to pay respects to their ancestors and seek their blessings for the upcoming year.

Traditional Death Rituals Modern Death Practices
Many traditional death practices in Vietnam involve elaborate rituals and ceremonies. Modern death practices in urban areas may involve more simplified funeral services.
Mourners may wear white clothing and participate in funeral processions. Mourners may still wear white, but funeral processions are less common in urban areas.
Offerings such as food, flowers, and incense are made to honor the deceased. Offerings are still made, but they may vary depending on individual beliefs and customs.
Religious leaders, such as Buddhist monks or Taoist priests, often lead rituals and ceremonies. Religious leaders or family members may lead rituals and ceremonies.

In conclusion, ancestor worship and death rituals hold great significance in Vietnamese culture. These traditions provide a way for Vietnamese people to honor and remember their ancestors, ensuring that their spirits are revered and their memories live on for generations to come.

Chung Cake – Traditional Food for Tet Holiday

One of the most important traditional foods during Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is the Chung Cake. This delicious rice cake holds a special place in the hearts and stomachs of Vietnamese people.

The preparation of Chung Cake is a time-honored tradition that brings families together. It is usually made a few days before Tet and requires a lot of effort and teamwork. The cake is made from glutinous rice, mung beans, and pork, which symbolize the earth, heaven, and humankind, respectively.

To make Chung Cake, the ingredients are carefully selected and prepared. The glutinous rice is soaked in water overnight and then mixed with salt. The mung beans are soaked, boiled, and pounded until they become a smooth paste. The pork is marinated, boiled, and chopped into small pieces.

Next, the cake is assembled. A square piece of banana leaf is used as the wrapper, with the shiny side facing outwards. First, a layer of glutinous rice is placed on the leaf, followed by a layer of mung beans and pork. Another layer of glutinous rice is added on top, and the leaf is tightly folded to form a square package.

The final step is the cooking process, which involves boiling the cakes for at least 6 hours. It requires constant attention to ensure that the water level is maintained. Once cooked, the cakes are left to cool and harden, ready to be served during Tet.

Chung Cake is not only a delicious treat but also carries deep cultural and symbolic significance. It is believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. When families gather to make and eat Chung Cake, they are not only celebrating the Lunar New Year but also strengthening their bonds and passing down traditions from generation to generation.

So, if you ever have the chance to try Chung Cake during Tet, make sure to savor its unique taste and appreciate the rich cultural heritage it represents.

Ingredients: Quantity:
Glutinous rice 1 kilogram
Mung beans 500 grams
Pork 500 grams
Banana leaves As needed
Salt As needed

Water Puppetry – Unique Vietnamese Performing Art

Water puppetry is a traditional form of performing art in Vietnam that dates back to the 11th century. It originated in the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam and has since become a popular cultural attraction.

The puppets used in water puppetry are made out of wood and are lacquered for durability. They are operated by puppeteers who stand waist-deep in water behind a bamboo screen. The puppeteers use long bamboo rods and strings to control the puppets, which appear to be moving on the water’s surface.

Water puppetry performances typically take place in a large pool or pond, with the audience sitting on one side and the puppeteers on the other. Traditional music and singing accompany the puppetry, adding to the overall experience.

The stories depicted in water puppetry often revolve around rural life, legends, and historical events. Common themes include farming, fishing, and dragon dances. The puppeteers skillfully manipulate the puppets, bringing them to life with movements such as dancing, diving underwater, and spitting water.

Water puppetry is not only a form of entertainment but is also considered a cultural and artistic expression of Vietnam. It has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

If you ever visit Vietnam, be sure to experience the unique art of water puppetry. It is a mesmerizing and immersive cultural experience that will leave you in awe of the skill and creativity of the puppeteers.


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Erica Silverstein

Erica, a seasoned travel writer with 20+ years of experience, started her career as a Let's Go guidebook editor in college. As the head of Cruise Critic's features team for a decade, she gained extensive knowledge. Her adventurous nature has taken her to Edinburgh, Australia, the Serengeti, and on luxury cruises in Europe and the Caribbean. During her journeys, she enjoys savoring local chocolates and conquering various summits.

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