After various periods of residence in Vietnam totalling over more than five years no opportunity had arisen to witness an independence-day celebration. However, on the second of September, 2015, Vietnam celebrated its seventieth anniversary of independence and a major parade was held on the extensive Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi, in the shadow of founding father, Ho Chi Minh’s great mausoleum. Beginning with a march past of all the units of the armed forces it progressed to a procession of floats and glorious displays of elaborate costumes by a broad cross section of Vietnam’s fifty four ethic minority peoples.
Military parades are the same everywhere but Vietnam’s soldiers exhibited superb discipline, dressed in lines that were absolutely straight from whichever angle the TV cameramen chose to film them. They marched smartly in faultless step but with grim expressions matched only by those of the government officials who stood upon the dais to take the salute. Some units marched unarmed, but many strode with Kalashnikov rifles firmly clasped across their chests.
After the military came some enormous elaborately decorated floats of imaginative and colourful design, adorned by slender young women in matching dresses. One represented a famous building with every detail faithfully reproduced. Now the faces bore broad smiles. Teams of men supported long, brightly-coloured, paper dragons on sticks high above their heads which they caused to dip and twirl through precisely synchronised manoeuvers.
Of the groups that followed, some attempted to march in step, with varying degrees of success, but most walked naturally, making no attempt to emulate the skill of the military. Many walks of life were represented, trades, professions, youth organisations and veterans’ groups. But the highlight of the whole parade, was provided by the costumes of the ethnic minorities, especially the women’s dresses. As each wave of glorious colour swept past one could not imagine that it might be rivalled, yet what followed, time and time again, was as impressive as what had gone before. The ethnic minorities are said to constitute less than fifteen percent of Vietnam’s population but in the parade they provided much more than that proportion of the beauty on display.s
In the evening, Vietnam’s Television Channel One (VTV1) put on a spectacular show of song and dance, backed by video on a large screen, which lasted about three hours. Most of the songs were traditional and sung by singers of national renown and international quality. The costumes rivalled some of those of the morning parade and the dancing was both energetic and graceful. Everything was in the Vietnamese language, but the performances were worthy of an international audience and a version with some dubbing or sub-titles in English could win global acclaim for a country now of mature age seeking to promote its image on the world stage.