Christmas is a big holiday in the Western world and it was brought to Vietnam via Christianity. It is not an official holiday, but has become an important annual event.
The first Christmas in Vietnam was organized by Maria Madelena Minh Duc, wife of Lord Nguyen Hoang. Today it has become one of the most anticipated festivals of the year, especially among young people.
At the beginning of December the roads in big cities are decorated with colourful lights, tinsel and images of Santa Claus, reindeers, and Christmas trees,.
In commercial venues such as Vincom, Times City, an Aeon Mall there are decorating competitions. Christmas scenes, or a giant Christmas tree planted in the lobby, attract people who come to admire and take photos with family and relatives. Walking around the shops, you can hear the familiar melodies of Christmas songs. Promotions and gift-giving programs also take place. Some stalls even organize special activities for children such as decorating a tree or creating DIY Christmas cards. The number of visitors at commercial centers on these days is always higher than usual. This is the season when the Santa Claus service (where parents hire a person to dress up like Santa Claus and give gifts to their children) operates at full capacity. On Christmas Eve, you will see Santa on his motor scooter delivering gifts to children.
In Vietnam, Christmas is not just a religious holiday. It has become an occasion for all to enjoy together. Non-believers also go to churches to learn more about this Western tradition, and listen to music or participate in activities and games.
The night of the 24th in Vietnam is completely different from Christmas Eve in the West. In the West, it is a time to reunite with family . Often there is a special Christmas Eve meal. All the stores are closed from 6 p.m. until the 26th or 27th. But in Vietnam, Christmas Eve is when people, especially young people, flock to the decorated streets, and take pictures with friends and relatives. Shops are busy and the streets crowded. Many main roads in major city centers are closed to vehicles so people can enjoy the Christmas atmosphere.
Each region celebrates a little differently.
Hanoi – where East meets West
In Hanoi in December, the cold weather adds to a Western yet Vietnamese Christmas atmosphere. At places such as Hanoi Cathedral and Ham Long Church you can see Chrismas trees with fairy LED lights and vivid nativity scenes. Along the streets, especially in the old squares, there are many decorations including Christmas trees, colourful lights, tinsel, and sparkling snowballs. In addition to busy places that have many exciting activities such as Hang Ma Street, people love to enjoy Christmas in a beautiful coffee shop. They order a hot drink, hold the cup in both hands, chat with friends and watch the streets..
Saigon – celebrating on roads and in alleys
In the Christian areas such as district 8, Le Van Sy, Go Vap, Nghia Phat people often gather to decorate nativity scenes to honour the birth of Jesus . The whole Christian quarter, from the largest roads to the smallest alleys, are elaborately decorated. Some families even have invested in artificial snow machines to bring the Christmas atmosphere of the West to their village. Christmas in the Christian villages has a warm and cozy feeling.
How we celebrate Christmas in Vietnam versus in the West reflects cultural differences. In the West, Christmas is a family holiday, most of the shopping centers are closed and people return home to eat dinner and celebrate with family. In Vietnam, Christmas is an opportunity for people to go out and enjoy the bustle of the street. Perhaps that is why many foreigners don’t feel lonely or homesick and are able to enjoy the season in Vietnam.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt