Vietnam suspends major spring festivals as coronavirus stalks Lunar New Year

By Viet Tuan, Nguyen Quy   February 9, 2021 | 01:00 am PT
Vietnam suspends major spring festivals as coronavirus stalks Lunar New Year
An aerial view of Tam Chuc Pagoda in Ha Nam Province. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.
Long-standing spring festivals in northern Vietnam have been suspended to prevent gatherings amid the complicated development of local Covid-19 outbreaks.

Authorities in Hanoi’s My Duc District announced the cancelation of Huong (Perfume) Pagoda Festival, one of the country’s biggest spring celebrations. The festival lasts from the sixth day of the first lunar month to the last day of the third lunar month, that is, from Feb. 17 to May 11 this year.

Huong Pagoda, a collection of many temples and pagodas built amidst mountains and forests, is still open to visitors but requires all to wear face masks and limit gathering in crowds to prevent the risk of spreading the virus.

Hanoi has recorded 26 cases since Jan. 28 as community transmissions resurfaced in Vietnam. Capital residents have been asked to stay home and limit travel during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday as a Covid-19 precaution.

Authorities in Hanoi also suspended a celebration to mark the 232nd anniversary of the Ngoc Hoi – Dong Da victory at Dong Da Cultural Park in Dong Da District on Feb. 16, the fifth day of the first lunar month. The festival depicts the glorious merits of King Quang Trung, a national hero in the 18th century who led Tay Son troops to defeat 290,000 Qing invaders on the fifth day of the first lunar month of 1789.

The annual Tran Temple Festival in northern Nam Dinh Province, around 110 kilometers from Hanoi, was also canceled. Normally, the festival will take place from the 11th to the 16th day of the first lunar month, following the celebration of Lunar New Year, to occur in mid-February.

A crowd is seen at the Tran Temple Festival during the 2019 Lunar New Year. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

The Tran Temple Festival in 2019 Lunar New Year. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Authorities in Ha Nam Province, around 65 kilometers from Hanoi, last month suspended the opening ceremony of Tam Chuc Pagoda Festival, scheduled to take place on Feb. 23.

The pagoda is part of the Tam Chuc spiritual tourism complex, which is spread over 5,000 hectares – almost one-fifth of it as lakes and most of the rest as dense forest covering mountain ranges and valleys. The spectacular Tam Chuc Lake is at the heart of this complex.

Authorities in Bac Giang Province, which has recorded one case during the country's latest outbreak, has canceled all spring festivals in the locality.

Vietnamese, especially Buddhists, have a long tradition of visiting pagodas and temples in the first lunar month to pray for peace and luck in the new year. It is estimated over 70 percent of Vietnam’s population are either Buddhists or follow Buddhist practices.

While the outbreaks in Hai Duong and Quang Ninh provinces are gradually coming under control, authorities are struggling with a new outbreak at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City to which 30 community transmissions have been linked. The source of the airport cluster has not been found.

The outbreak in Vietnam’s biggest city comes just a few days before Lunar New Year, or Tet, the country’s most important holiday that sees people flock home to celebrate.

Vietnam has recorded 470 community transmission cases since Jan. 28.

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