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Will a full year calendar make Hue Festival City of Vietnam?

“Hue – Festival city of Vietnam” should not just be another nominal that the city utilizes to appeal more visitors. This land has so much cultural and heritage significance to offer. With consistent planning and clever engineering, festival will play the active role in satisfying tourists with diverse preferences. It improves customer loyalty to revisit Hue all year round and many time again.

This article will unveil the cultural richness of Hue territory with a large repertoire of Festival. It continues with an adaptable approach from being a biennial international cultural event to year-long festival. Lastly, we will go through the event calendar of 2022 which covers the most important festivals not only unique to Hue but for Vietnam in general.

1.   Why should Hue brand itself as the Festival City of Vietnam?

Through seven hundred years of acculturation, this central territory of Vietnam holds a thick layer of inherited values. Beside built heritages, the faith and spiritual practices of local communities contribute to build up Hue’s distinctive features. According to the record, Hue has some five hundred festivals in its repertoire. Among these, there are about a hundred of folk events and village-based festivities

The most noticeable of festival culture in Hue is the common aspirations of human beings for spiritual communion with heaven, earth, river, mountains, genies, and ancestors. From the royalty, the King as “Son of Heaven” performed important ceremonies to pray for national peace and prosperity. Hue was the seat of the last feudal dynasties over four hundred years. Additionally, Buddhism makes a strong mark in this land, and becomes the source of significant expression. In the rural space, local villagers preserve and pass on traditional rituals from generation to generation. These rural festivities often relate to agricultural calendar to celebrate the harvest or to pay tribute to the founding genius.

In this perspective, travelers to Hue at any time of the year can attend a festive event. They may witness the good deed during a classic tour or fully immerse in a series of festivals to truly feel the deep routed heritage of the ancient capital. The spring interval, before and after Tết Lunar New Year, now sees revived rites from the imperial city such as “Lễ Ban Sóc” the royal calendar distribution ceremony, “Lễ Thướng Tiêu” Tết pole-erecting ceremony.

There are some impressive and staged events. For example, Nam Giao Offering Ritual re-enacts the sacrifice to Heaven and Earth. Whereas, Xã Tắc offering ritual pays tribute to the Genies of Earth and Crop. In summer time, Vesak or the Buddha anniversary day, the ghost “Vu Lan” festival evokes deep imprints of Buddhist values in local way of living. In autumn, there are various celebrations in the countryside. Most of the cases, locals will enjoy folk games and competitions like sampan racing. Winter is the time for reflections with harmonious arts and music manifestations.

Pole erecting ceremony in Hue Festival City of Vietnam
Lễ Thướng Tiêu – Tết pole erecting ceremony (Image source: Visit Hue)

2. From a biennial international celebration to a year-long festival agenda

2.1. How has Hue festival emerged?

Thanks to close Franco-Vietnam corporation, “Festival Hue” was firstly organized in 2000. It introduced the concept of modern, public-oriented, international arts festival following the model in Avignon and Edinburgh. This edition was highly successful thus it then became a biennial international cultural festival.

With a thorough theme “Cultural heritages with integration and development”, the festival honored Hue and Vietnam’s cultural heritages. At the same time, it invited other art performing troupes around the world to come and share their talents, stories and identities. At the beginning, the festival lasted about 12 days with 4 repetitive circles then gradually shortened to a week long.

During this peak period, more than forty art troupes came and performed diverse kinds of arts. They gathered to highlight their talents, delivering exhibitions, fairs, and competitions at various venues throughout the city. There were revival and re-invention rituals, such as Nam Giao offering ritual, which were extravagantly “remake”. Despite the unfamiliarity of many spectators to the new art forms, such international festival was a magnificent cultural rendez-vous.

2.2. What can Hue Festival do better?

There were so many things to do and see in just a short time. It was a downside of such approach. The city and Festival organization committee probably spent a long time to plan many activities without accenting on a unique topic. Audience to the Festival might have the fear of missing out. They could not attend all the preferred activities as there was time duplication.

Last but not least, the unexpected bad weather risked to ruin the whole efforts that the city had been waiting for two years. In general, to wrap all the richness and diversity of Hue and Vietnam heritages in one week festival, with a generalist theme may not be the ideal option. Therefore, from the year of 2022, local authorities have decided to turn Hue into a year-round festival city to present its best potentiality.

Street parade "Colours of Culture" in Hue Festival City of Vietnam
Street parades “Colours of Cultures” (Image source: thesmartlocal.com)

2.4. How does Hue the festival city of Vietnam transform in four seasons?

Hue Festival 2022 debuts with “Lễ Ban Sóc”, a ceremony to distribute calendars for royal mandarins during the Nguyen Dynasty. It closes with the countdown party on the New Year eve. Throughout the year, the festive activities rely on seasonal best features (e.g Festival of Hoàng Mai, yellow apricot flower).

Spring festival lasts from January to March with the theme “The harmony of springtime essences”. From April to June is summer festival depicting “Cultural heritages with integration and development”. “Alluring Autumn” is the main colour of activities between July and September. When the romance of the rain arrives, the city and its citizen will contemplate all the aspects of poetry, music, arts. Therefore the last months of the year will whisper “Symphony of Winter”.

In addition to making use of seasonal specificities, Hue will organize distinctive events characterized by multi-cultural convergence. For example, there are revived royal rituals during Tết in the Imperial City. In the countryside, folk games and competitions will be the highlights to pray for a year of peace and prosperity. Summer with dry and warm weather is perfect to invite all art troupes throughout the country and abroad to come. Hue still aims at forging the highlights of biennial international festival but with a more relaxed and selective agenda.

Furthermore, the city will voice up its positioning as a center of art, gastronomy, spirituality and wellness living. There will be many conferences to promote Hue and Vietnamese cuisine. The “Coupe de Hue” is a fantastic opportunity to affirm local wish to make this green capital a “cycling city”.

All the ambitious approach and efforts will hopefully bring new breeze to face lift Hue’s intrinsic attractiveness. Hue is the festival city of Vietnam that is worthy visiting all year round.

Hue Nam Temple parade of boats on the Perfume River in Hue Festival City of Vietnam.
A parade on the Perfume River to Hue Nam Temple to worship Mother Goddesses and Four Palaces (Image: Visit Hue)

3. Hue Festival year round calendar. What is in it for you?

This holistic planning means that Hue is not only a one-week festival meeting point but a year-round festival city. In other words, there are festive events in Hue every month. So, join us to take a closer look at the calendar and see what your interest can be. Festival may not necessarily be your main motivation for the coming visit but it gives you a good reason to slow travel and make your stay more engaged.

3.1. Festive events from January to March “The harmony of spring time essences”

The most remarkable events in January are the revitalized royal ceremonies in the royal court “Lễ Ban Sóc” and “Lễ Thướng Tiêu”.

Lễ Ban Sóc means the calendar distribution ceremony. It is held on the 1st of January at Ngọ Môn Gate. This ceremony recalls the symbolic protocol of distributing royal agenda to the mandarins in the feudal time. This mise-en-scene ritual is an announcement for Hue Festival Year 2022.

On the 25th of January, if visiting the imperial city, you may attend “Lễ Thướng Tiêu”. According to the feudal rites, the pole was raised up as a signal to inform the citizens that the Tet holidays could start.

Other events in Spring:

  • February 9: Huyền Trân Temple Festival to praise Princess Huyền Trân’s merits. She made a great sacrifices to contribute to the forming of Thuận Hóa – Phú Xuân – Thừa Thiên Huế region since 700 years.
  • February 12-13: National Poetry Day with recitation activities take place at Tứ Tượng “four elephants” park.
  • February: A conference about “Nguyễn Dynasty – the foundation and flourishment”. the date is to be advised.
  • March 16-17: “Huế the Vietnamese capital of gastronomy”, with culinary talk show, cooking competition. There are diverse gastronomic exhibition at various city places.
  • March 9-10: Xã Tắc esplanade offering ritual dedicated to the Genies of Earth and Crop.
  • March TBA: Exhibition of “Nguyễn Dynasty’s feudal mandarin regime
  • Other village-based festivals such as Sinh village wrestling, Cầu Ngư fish worshipping ceremony, etc.
Village wrestling competition
There are many village-based celebrations and festivities in spring time (Image source: Vanhoagiaoduc)

3.2. Festive events from April to June “Cultural heritages with integration and development”

April is the peak period of Hue Festival with the participation of many art troupes across the nation and from abroad. It continues to foster the significant milestone of biennial international festival.

Besides, there are some important festivals in Hue that you may interest:

  • April 2-3: Huệ Nam Temple Festival. It is not only a spiritual parade with typical “going to trance” dances depicting the belief in the worship of Four Palaces Goddesses. This is largest celebration of its kinds in Vietnam with an impressive carnival on the Perfume River to Huệ Nam temple. Important note: On this day, the dragon boat service is limited as all the boats are used for the parade.
  • April 10: Ao Dai fashion show
  • April 10-12: Street parades “Colours of cultures” aim at bringing festive ambiance into the pedestrian zones, local neighborhood.
  • April 12: “Trinh Cong Son music day” to pay tribute to the late talented composer. Vietnamese often regard him as Bob Dylan of Vietnam.

There are some sport events like VNExpress Imperial Hue Marathon, Hue beer festival, boat racing in Lang Co.

Especially, if you take a slow cycling tour to Thanh Toan village during this time, you will have the chance to immerse in the atmosphere of rural market festivities “Chợ quê ngày hội”. There are popular games, local delicacies to try.

May brings more enlightenment with Buddhist teachings. On May 14th, the provincial Buddhist Association will open Vesak great ceremony at Nghinh Lương Đình pavilion. After that, the vegetarian cuisine week will not only highlight the creativity of the nuns and Hue women but also the practices of healthy living. Buddhist practitioners will find interesting activities promoting Buddhist culture in this mindful town, from musical workshop, art exhibition to street life display.

“Lotus – the essence of heaven and earth” will be the main theme for June. Lotus inspires the fashion show of Ao Dai with arty patterns. Audience can learn and create selective arts and crafts made from lotus such as Truc Chi bamboo paper art, lotus conical hat, lotus handmade flowers. Culinary artisans will gather to share and showcase their finest specialties and Hue dishes from lotus.

Hardly the month of June pass by without mentioning “Hue kite flying, the art of puppetry in the air”. From the 1st to 7th of June, the Hue Kites Artisans Club oversees exciting activities to promote this popular entertainment. From workshop of arty kite making, exhibition to kite flying competition at Tứ Tượng Park, Hàm Nghi courtyard, Thuận An Beach “A free ticket to return to childhood” is available for everyone. 

The last week of June collides with the death anniversary of Lord Nguyen Phuc Khoat, the father of Ao Dai traditional costume. To pay tribute to him, there will be promotional activities to voice up “Hue – the kingdom of Ao Dai”. For instance, local citizens will wear Ao Dai in public places, at work, at markets. Visitors will tour many places linked to the making and history of Ao Dai. 

Ladies in Ao Dai fashion show
Ao Dai fashion show, one of the highlights of every festival (Image source: Hieu Truong)

3.3. Festive events from July to September “Alluring Autumn”

July 23-25, “Old Flavors of Ancient Village” invites visitors to explore the five-hundred-year-old heritage village by the Ô Lâu River, 50km north of Hue. Beside idyllic garden houses, charming village temples, Phuoc Tich village is known for its traditional pottery, My Xuyen wood carving and Pho Trach rush weaving.

Similar to Lễ Ban Sóc and Lễ Thướng Tiêu, Lễ Truyền Lô is also a revitalized royal ceremony a to honor talented scholars. It will be organized in August in the Citadel.

Mid-autumn festival will see two more highlights as the Lion Dance Competition and Huê Lantern Display. This is the occasion to showcase Hue characteristics that are different from Hoian lanterns. There are sophisticating royal lanterns, traditional folk lanterns, arty lanterns, etc. They are made from various materials such as cloth, colored paper, dzó tree bark or bamboo. Artists will valorize Hue lantern with installation arts at special venues.

Regarding sport events, September will cheer up cyclists from afar to conquer the “Coupe de Hue.” On the Perfume River, not only villagers across the province gather for annual boat race, but a SUP enthusiasts will paddle to express the love for the legendary river.

Installation art of Hue lantern in the citadel
Installation art of Hue lantern in the Citadel during mid-autumn festival (Image source: Vntravellive)

3.4. Festive events from October to December “Symphony of Winter”

From “Bolero singer contest”, Ca Hue “folk music”, EDM to trumpet competition, music and performing entertainments will warm up Hue’s winter.

Nevertheless, wellness practitioners will host of the “Wellness – Healthy Living Week” with opening activities from 26th to 27th November. Tea houses, Onsen spa centres, wellness retreat and hot springs, traditional medicine clinics will team up to introduce the traditional arts of healing and promote healthy eating habits.

In overall, this calendar is a comprehensive approach to underline Hue Festival is not a one-week program but there are worthy activities to enjoy all year round. Despite our effort to summary the calendar, it is still hard to wrap up all in one article. We will go into details for each activity and important festivals in Hue, Vietnam in related posts. What is important is to remember that Hue itself is a festival.

In other words, Hue merits the brand as the most important “festival city of Vietnam”. Be it a royalty inspired event or a village celebration, you will make your holidays more memorable and meaningful by preparing to be a part of it.

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