1. Giong Temple Festival
Giong Festival is quite new and unique to those who visit Viet Nam for the first time; it’s different from the Lunar New Year or Mid-Autumn Festival.
There are two typical Giong festivals in Ha Noi, including Giong festival annually held in Soc temple (Phu Linh commune, Soc Son district) and Giong festival in Phu Dong temple (Phu Dong commune, Gia Lam district). Both of them are recognized as the world cultural immaterial heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2010.
The festivals are organized annually by the locals from communes around the temples. You can watch processions with people in traditional, colorful clothes and incense offerings. After the ritual, you can take part in a wide range of folk games and activities like flying trapeze, clay pot – beating, duck-catching, Chinese chess, and enjoy ancient singing performances and traditional martial arts. Highlight of the festival is offering of bamboo flowers. They are artificial flowers woven with bamboo laths with cotton dye, which symbolize Saint Giong’s horse riding-whip. After the possession, these bamboo flowers are distributed to villagers and visitors as a lucky gift.
2. Perfume Pagoda Festival
Perfume Pagoda is located in Huong Tich Cave in My Duc District (around 65km from city center). It is center of a very revered and sacred site featuring a maze of mainly Buddhist temples, which are built into the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich.
The festival usually begins at the 6th day of the first month in lunar calendar (around Mid-February or March). Peak season is from 15th day of the first month to the 18th day of the second month of lunar calendar; it starts with a dragon dance at Den Trinh Pagoda on the 15th day of the 1st Lunar month. People from all over Viet Nam flock to Ha Noi’s iconic pagoda to enjoy the beautiful landscape and pray for a good year and pay their respects to Buddha. The journey to Perfume Pagoda is quite interesting. Visitors travel by boat along the Yen River to the base of Huong Mountain, passing by beautiful limestone caves, fields and some temples (you can stop and visit some of them; however, if you are short of time, it’s better to head straight to Huong Tich Cave). Then climb hundreds of stone steps towards Huong Tich Cave. Inside of the cave are a colorful display of food offerings, statues of deities, lit incenses, and lines of praying locals. You will find it especially crowded and busy during the days of the festival. Apart from Perfume Pagoda, there are also other temples to see within the complex, such as Vong Temple, Thuyet Kinh Cave and Thien Son Pagoda.
3. Dong Da Festival
Dong Da Festival (or Dong Da hillock festival) takes place annually on the 5th day of the first lunar month. It is organized to honor victory of King Quang Trung, hero in national history, against Qing invading army.
Two centuries ago, Dong Da was a battlefield where Quang Trung (Nguyen Hue) defeated more than 200,000 invaders at the beginning of lunar new year. In only few hours, camp of the invaders in Khuong Thuong was destroyed; their leader Dien Chau Sam Nghi Dong had to commit suicide here. Dong Da Hill then became a glorious historical site.
In the morning of the festival day, all dignitaries and elders in the village gather fully to prepare for the great ceremony. A procession commences at Khuong Thuong and ends at Dong Da Hill; it moves slowly for people to revere the magnificent statue of the festival. People in traditional clothes carry colorful flags, processional parasol, palanquins in various colors, gongs and drums, and pay their tribute to the King. The most attractive and youngest of the possession is the last group with "Fire Dragon". Young men from two villages near the hill, Dong Quang and Khuong Thuong, emulate to plait straw into shapes of big dragons ornamented. A band of young people in traditional clothes go around the procession of Fire Dragon and perform stick and fist, aiming to reappear images of the former battle and glorifying Tay Son soldiers under leadership of King Quang Trung.
Apart from the ritual, the festival offers a lot of games representing martial spirit. People also offer incense, flowers to in front of the King Quang Trung's statue to commemorate him and his victory.