It was September 2nd, 1945. Mere hours after Japan’s surrender in World War II, a curious crowd of 500,000 Hanoian residents had gathered at Ba Dinh Square to witness one of the most pivotal and important historical events to ever happen in Vietnam. The first ever president of the country, Ho Chi Minh, was to read the Declaration of Independence on this day, officially declaring that Vietnam was to be from then on free from the French colonial rule that lasted for about 100 years. It was spectacular. It was freeing. It was a critical step in leading the country to its current state today. The nation had transformed itself from a country ruled by foreign invaders to a striving, developing, and prosperous one.
The establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) drew heavily from the American version. The proclamation even paraphrased the U.S. Declaration of Independence in declaring, “All men are born equal: the Creator has given us inviolable rights, life, liberty, and happiness!” However it took another 30 years before Ho Chi Minh’s dream of a united, communist Vietnam became a reality. In 1976, after the Vietnam War, the two parts of Vietnam were finally united into one whole country called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. September 2nd remains the key date in Vietnam’s ways to total independence.
From that moment on, every year on this very same day, Vietnamese people celebrate this meaningful and historical occasion, and it’s a sight you shouldn’t miss.
Colors of yellow and red
Across the country, colorful decorations begin appearing in the streets, in front of and within households. Vietnamese flags with the striking golden star against the red background will decorate even the smallest of alleyways during the time leading up to Independence Day. Everyone seems to proudly display their national pride. You will easily come across celebratory signs and decorative flower beds on the streets, and a lot of Uncle Ho’s (Ho Chi Minh’s endearing nickname) oversized posters depicting the historic moment when he spoke into a microphone on that day. As a tourist, you will very easily feel the strong patriotism and love displayed by the locals, for all the efforts and sacrifices made by their predecessors in constructing the Vietnam we know today.
September 2nd is cause of celebration. Many things happen on the streets – from firework displays to cultural events to parades taking place in blocked-off streets. Locals are keen on joining these festivities if they choose not to travel during their extra day off. If the national holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday will automatically become a public holiday as well. A good chunk of the population (especially in the major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang) will take advantage of this and head off somewhere. Suddenly you will find larger crowds than usual in some of the country’s most beautiful destinations like Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, Ha Long Bay, Sapa, Hue, Hoi An and Da Lat. Those without travel plans just spend the day at home with their loved ones as it is a time for them to relax, gather with friends and relatives, and have big feasts.
The streets go wild
If you are in Vietnam during Independence Day, make sure to head out and join the thousands of locals celebrating out on the streets, especially if you’re in any of the three main cities. You will be able to join various cultural performances, exhibitions, talks, book fairs, and other celebrations, most of them for free. If in Hanoi, head over to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum or to Ba Dinh Square to ponder over the historical event before continuing to the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake to join in on the loud celebrations. If in Ho Chi Minh City, head over to Nguyen Hue, the pedestrian street that will be full to the brim. In Da Nang, fireworks will decorate the sky by the Dragon Bridge – it’s a spectacular sight.
Remember to give your tummy a treat – go crazy with some delicious street food! Vendor carts will decorate the streets serving up Vietnamese favorites on this day – whether it’s a snack, a full on meal, or dessert. Join in on the “mot hai bai dzo!” (loose translation is “one, two, three, drink!”) chants, which you will hear coming from every corner as locals will invite you to their sidewalk table for a beer or two. Plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants will be open till 02:00 AM in the morning, so you will not run out of options on this day. Vietnamese holidays and festivals are often celebrated by huge feasts – shared family style meals and buffets with hot pot, grilled meats, and other famous dishes like pho and spring rolls. You can very easily get your fair share by attending a food festival in the main quarter of the city you’re in.
Some inconveniences do happen!
Many streets will be closed off for the parades and festivities, sometimes even up to 40 or so streets. This often causes street blocks in the morning and late at night, inconveniencing many in transit. Prices for transport options also surge. But pay no heed, it’s an exciting day. Just find an alternative route, and be on your way.
Many businesses also close on this day so don’t expect to go about your day as usual. Plus, to avoid not having a place to spend the night, book your hotel rooms well in advance as it can get crowded.
September 2nd is cause for celebration in Vietnam. Staying away from the celebrations is a difficult task, with locals piling onto the streets in droves, all happy and excited about their prosperous nation. If you’re traveling to Vietnam during this time, we recommend that you stay in the bigger cities – Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, or Da Nang. The vibe in these cities will be different, loud, and unique. Certainly something to experience, and will give you memories to reminisce about for a lifetime.