You wonder how Christmas in Vietnam is happening?

Nga Do
Christmas is gaining popularity in communist Vietnam as a ‘fun festival from the west’. Christmas is one of the four most important festivals of the Vietnamese year, including the birthday of Buddha, the New Year and the Mid-autumn Festival.

The Communist government in charge of the unified country after the end of the Vietnam War initially disapproved of many liberal aspects of life, including Christmas. Over the years, and as its confidence grew, that stance has been relaxed and tourism is positively encouraged, with all that goes with it.

Christmas celebrate in Vietnam is a huge event, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the Vietnamese Christmas celebrations here are like any other city in the western world. The Christians in Vietnam attend a Midnight mass on Christmas Eve and return home to a sumptuous Christmas dinner. The Christmas dinner usually consists of chicken soup while wealthier people eat turkey and Christmas pudding.

On Christmas Eve, Vietnamese people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, especially young people, like to go into the city centre, where there is a Catholic Cathedral. The streets are crowded with people on Christmas Eve and in the city centre cars are not allowed for the night.

People celebrate by throwing confetti, taking pictures and enjoying the Christmas decorations and lights of big hotels and department stores. Lots of cafes and restaurants are open for people to enjoy a snack!

Vietnam used to be part of the French Empire and there are still French influences in the Christmas traditions. Many Catholic churches have a big nativity crib scene or ‘creche’ with nearly life size statues of Mary, Joesph, baby Jesus, the shepherds and animals. In some areas of Ho Chi Minh City, usually in Catholic parishes, people have big crib scenes in front of their houses and decorate the whole street, turning it into a Christmas area! These are popular for people to visit and look at the scenes.

Also like in France, the special Christmas Eve meal is called ‘reveillon’ and has a ‘bûche de Noël’ (a chocolate cake in the shape of a log) for desert. Vietnamese people like to give presents of food and at Christmas a bûche de Noël is a popular gift. Other Christmas presents are not very common, although some young people like to exchange Christmas cards.

The Yuletide spirit of giving and sharing has been embraced with an earnest by the Vietnamese. Generous as they are, the Vietnamese give out gifts and presents in plenty during the Christmas celebrations in Vietnam. However, the children are keener to have their stockings and shoes stuffed in with goodies from Santa’s bulging sack. The European customs of Santa Claus and the Christmas tree were popular and children would leave their shoes out on Christmas Eve.

The Phat Diem Cathedral in the Northern Province of Ninh Binh attracts hundreds of Catholics for Mass on Christmas Eve and children perform a nativity play in front of the Cathedral. However, the biggest celebrations are definitely in the South, Ho Chi Minh City where there are several thousand Roman Catholics. Midnight Mass is followed by a traditional Christmas Dinner the following day with turkey and Christmas pudding on the menu of those who can afford them and more simple fayre for those who can’t.

There are Christmas lights and decorations in the City and plenty of people, mostly young, make for the centre on Christmas Eve. Plenty of confetti is thrown and everyone has a good time with shops and cafes open for trade. The Catholic Churches usually have a nativity scene and Catholic people may have something similar at home or in the street of a Catholic neighbourhood. There is some exchange of presents, and certainly Christmas cards are exchanged especially by the young.

“Chúc Mừng Giáng Sinh” means Merry Christmas in Vietnamese. If you are on holiday in Vietnam around Christmas it is a short phrase worth remembering if you find yourself amongst the celebrations. Contact with Vietnam Typical Tours if you want further advice.

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