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Lantern Festival in Hoi An

04/08/2020 668 Views

Hoi An, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site

Hoi An is a former commercial port located on the banks of the Thu Bon River and is today the most picturesque small town in Vietnam. This former port was one of the liveliest in Southeast Asia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, by merchant ships from various countries such as China, Portugal and even Japan. Thus, already at that time, Hoi An was a place of multicultural encounters whose architectural, culinary and religious traces remain today.

Hoi An, located by the water

It is in the centre of the city, a real open-air museum, that these traces of the past await you and that earned Hoi An to be classified as a UNESCO cultural heritage in 1999 for its tangible and intangible heritage. The city center, will also be a place that will satisfy the shopaholics!

Having kept its charm of yesteryear, the city delighted many travelers every year, and is especially appreciated and frequented during its famous lantern festival...

What is the Hoi An Lantern Festival?

The Hoi An Lantern Festival, or Full Moon Party, takes place once a month on the 14th day of the lunar month, during the days that celebrate the full moon. From the evening, the lights of the city go out and give way to the only light of the many lanterns in the night. These are then deposited on the water and then offers a magical spectacle where hundreds of lanterns float on the river throughout the night. 

At this event, the lanterns are beautifully lit, made of colorful paper translating good health and peace. This festival is very popular, both for foreign tourists and for Vietnamese.

This festival is also dedicated to traditional games, poetry readings and concerts of folk music in the streets that you can discover while walking in the pedestrian streets. But also, it is a very religious evening during which the Vietnamese can honor their ancestors by burning fake paper bills and offering offerings arranged on tables in front of the shops. These offerings usually consist of fruits including bananas and mangoes. 

Lanterns of different shapes and colours

Origins and importance of the full moon


It was in the 16th century, when Hoi An was still an active merchant port, that the Japanese used to hang lanterns of various colors and shapes on their doors. This gesture was taken up and imitated by the inhabitants of the city and today, the legend says that it would bring luck in the houses. It was not until 1998 that the local authorities decided to associate these lanterns with the monthly celebrations of the full moon.


Why on full moon days? In Buddhism, the full moon is a sacred element, on the one hand because Buddha was born at that time but also because it was during the full moon that he reached enlightenment. This is an important moment for Buddhists to reflect on their lives and worship their ancestors. Since Vietnam is a country with strong Buddhist beliefs, these lunar periods are very important and sacred.

Things to do during the festival

One of the best ways to enjoy the lantern festival is to board a sampan, which is the traditional Vietnamese canoe and thus drop your lanterns on the surface of the water while enjoying the atmosphere on the Hoai River. 

The traditional game you can discover in the streets of the city is Bai Choi. This game aims to combine music, poetry, painting and literature and involves drawing on map and folk singing. The songs will have the theme of everyday life and work, bringing a lively atmosphere to the festival.

Finally, for the greedy (or simply the curious), you can not miss the street dish served during the festival: the Cao Lau. Essential dish of Hoi An, it stems from a Japanese and Chinese influence, brought by the time of the merchants to the port. Cao Lau is characterized by thick noodles, rice crackers and pork in a Vietnamese broth. 

Wander between the illuminated lanterns

More than just a lantern festival, you will immerse yourself in beliefs and a heritage rich in culture and history.

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