Hoi An Lantern festival is an age-old tradition that is run on the 14th day of every lunar month. During the festivial, Hoi An switches off its lights and closes to motorized traffic. The town is transformed by flickering candlelight, multi-coloured lanterns and hoards of visitors. The lantern festival has become popular enough that even if your visit isn’t on the full moon date you can still participate in the Hoi An traditional full moon festival just about any night.
People gather on the town common near the Hoai river to enjoy interesting activities during their weekends. This game always brings about an effervescent atmosphere and makes the town more lively. Bai Choi not only brings the warm breath of the modern life, but also revives the gentle, charming and meaningful characteristics of the traditional culture.
For the locals the night of the full moon is the time to honour their ancestors by setting up altars and offering fruit and flowers, burning incense and fake money outside homes and businesses in exchange for good luck and prosperity. This is a great time for a temple visit – each of the town’s pagodas are awash with activities, all free of charge. Monks hold candlelit ceremonies and the Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall on Tran Phu Street hosts an inspiring gathering of local fishing families honouring Lady Thien Hau, goddess of the sea. All attractions are free for visitors on the night of the full moon.
Try cheap and delicious vegetarian street food
The festival is also a great opportunity to sample cheap and delicious vegetarian street food, where you can find vegetarian alternatives to popular eats cao lau and banh mi, replacing meat with tofu. Try moon cakes, only available on these nights. These cakes made with green bean and lotus seeds are a lot tastier than they sound. The festival is a crowded affair, attracting many local Vietnamese from outlying communes, so be prepared to be bumped into a bit, dress appropriately to respect the local customs and of course.
You’ll be accosted by locals selling cardboard lotus flower-shaped lanterns, which come with a tiny candle. These, when released on to the river, are said to bring happiness, luck and love. And if the lure of a cruise downstream in a tiny sampan boat takes hold, you can take one. This is a great way to grab a bit of space from the crowds, and the river is a good viewpoint from which to enjoy the festival. The lanterns are set into the river as an offering and to worship their ancestors as well as the God of the land. This tradition started centuries ago where on the full moon people from all over the region would come to participate.
Other entertainment includes local street musicians playing traditional instruments, poetry readings, Chinese chess matches by candlelight and other traditional theatrics and games. To have any chance of knowing what on earth is going on, you’ll need a guide.
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