Religion and religious festivals are an important part of Vietnamese culture, so Vietnam is a country known for its festivals and parades. One of the very important ceremonies that are celebrated in Hoi An old town is the festival held on Buddha?s birthday.
The Buddhist religion is prevalent in Asia, and Hoi An is no different. In fact, a massive 50% of the Vietnamese population is Buddhist. Thus, Buddha’s Birthday Festival is a festival of immense importance. It is said this is the day he achieved enlightenment.
This day is celebrated on the 15th day of the 4th lunar month, and prayers and offering are made all over Vietnam. In Hoi An, this day is celebrated lavishly in the Phap Bao Pagoda. The temple is decorated extravagantly, the monks walk in several processions along the streets, and all the pagodas are decorated with beautiful colorful lanterns. The smell of incense permeates everywhere and adds to the festivals’ spiritual nature. All the followers gather in front of the pagodas to observe the religious rites and listen to the Vesak message, as well as to the speech given by the head monk of the pagoda. They afterwards offer free food and gifts to the children and the needy.
When night falls, the atmosphere of the festival gets even more exciting, with a parade that starts from the Phap Bao pagoda and goes along the main road of the old quarter, ending at the river front. Here animals are set free, and flower garlands and colored lanterns are put on the river in order to warm up the wandering souls who have died drowning.
In Indonesia and Thailand, celebrations are held on the night of the May full moon, but it is advisable for tourists to visit the temple for the festival a little earlier in Vietnam. In fact, going to Hoi An a week before the actual full moon is a rather good idea.