I’m not the kind of person who simply put my trust in praying for good things to happen, but isn’t it spectacular to see a myriad of lanterns floating on a river? That’s why I always crave to spend my holiday in Hoi An where the Lantern Festival is held monthly on the full moon day.

Hoi An is already long known for bewitching the world with rustic yellow houses topped by grey mossy tiles, making you feel like being lost in another world or somehow time traveling to the previous centuries. But the real charm of this UNESCO Heritage Town is the ancient atmosphere you can feel from the locals’ way of living and their tradition. One of the most well-preserved customs by the villagers is this Full Moon Lantern Festival.

hoian lantern festival

Photo by Ha Jang 

There is no clear research on this festival, but due to the close religious tie with Buddhism, many people assume that the festival is to celebrate one of the holiest days according to the Buddhist calendar. It is the day when the moon makes a complete circle and becomes “full” every month. It doesn’t base on the Georgian calendar we commonly use, so calculating the exact date may be difficult. What I usually do is to contact a native resident or a local guide to ask for when they will hold the Lantern Festival so that I can be on time for the ceremony.

However, a religious connection itself couldn’t do much for the aesthetic appeal of Hoi An Lantern Festival. What’s so special about it is the way local inhabitants celebrate this particular day. On that day, multi-colored lanterns are lit with candles and placed on the bank of Thu Bon river. The streets nearby become sparkling not with the artificial electric bulbs but with the cozy, lukewarm light from the lanterns.

hoian lantern festival

Photo by Peter Hershey

And you know what?

All the stores, restaurants, hotels will be raising their silk lanterns, the most luxurious versions too. That’s when the whole town turns into a doorstep to lead you back to the the 19th century. You can hear some old school music from a several-dozen-year-old gramophone or some traditional sounds from bamboo flutes, fiddles, and drums played by the street vendors by the riverbank. Right at that moment, the scent of my all-time favorite dish, “Banh mi” becomes more obvious, pushing my steps towards a food stall, relishing the authentic flavor of Vietnamese sandwiches. And before you leave, the “chef” will remind you to purchase a floating lantern, write down your wish and let it flow on the enchanting Thu Bon river at the heart of Hoi An.

My lantern had flown, carrying my wish to be back in Hoi An in the near future and to be able to emerge in that magic again.

Ellie

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