National Day in Vietnam falls every September 2nd and commemorates the day when Vietnam declared its independence from France at the end of World War II.
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National Day was declared a public holiday following the unification of Vietnam under a single government at the end of the Vietnam War.
Vietnam first fell under colonial rule in 1887 when French forces invaded and made it a part of French Indochina. Resistance to foreign rule continued throughout the colonial period but intensified during World War II when the Japanese seized control of Vietnam. On September 2nd, 1945, as Japan’s influence was waning and while a French expeditionary force was on its way to reclaim control of France’s lost colony, Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of Vietnam before thousands gathered in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square.
Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Communist Vietn Minh, appealed to the U.S. Declaration of Independence and to France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man in his speech in Ba Dinh Square. In South Vietnam, however, a separate declaration of independence was eventually made. The war with France lasted from 1946 to 1954, ending with the Geneva Accords and the independence of two distinct states. Vietnam remained divided until 1976, and today, September 2nd is remembered in both northern and southern Vietnam as the date when foreign rule finally ended.
On National Day, the Vietnamese celebrate their national heritage and culture with patriotic speeches, numerous parades, and with fireworks displays in all the major cities. The Vietnamese flag is carried through the streets and put on display almost everywhere you turn your eye, and you will also see huge posters depicting Ho Chi Minh making his famous speech in Ba Dinh Square back in 1945.
The city of Hanoi can be rather peaceful at times during National Day, however, despite the festivities. This is because much of the city’s population will head out to the coast of the South China Sea to swim and enjoy the cool ocean breeze. In Hanoi, you can see elaborate decorations up and down the streets and can attend numerous cultural performances and other celebrations.
Things to do in Vietnam during and around the time of National Day, which many tourists may wish to take part in, include:
- Attend the huge celebration in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, the very place where Vietnamese independence was declared. There will be parades, an ocean of red flags bearing yellow stars, and much excitement.
- Also in Ba Dinh Square, you can visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. This is the place where the remains of Ho Chi Minh himself are kept and venerated. The building is patterned after Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow but with a sloped roof and other elements that mark it as Vietnamese. There are gardens with 250 plant species from all over Vietnam surrounding the mausoleum, you get a good view of the National Day parade from the mausoleum’s steps, and inside, a military guard watches over the body of Ho Chi Minh.
- If in Vietnam a little bit prior to National Day, you can also witness another patriotic celebration. August Revolution Day is kept on August 19th, when Hanoi fell to the revolutionaries, though the uprising began on August 14th. Revolts broke out in both north and south Vietnam in August of 1945, and it is this movement that culminated in the September 2nd declaration of independence.
Those traveling to Vietnam for National Day should be aware that all government agencies and many businesses are closed on September 2nd. The visa counters at international airports are still open, but other visa services are closed. It is best to apply for a visa well in advance and to reserve your ticket and hotel room well ahead of time as well.