In the past, Vietnam did not really celebrate Christmas except for the country's Catholic minority population. December 25th was just like any other day in the year. Nowadays, Christmas is still not a public holiday, however, people are excited when the time comes, and try to do more to make it special. Here is what Christmas is all about in my home, Hanoi.
The closer it is to Christmas, the colder it gets here in Europe, but it's definitely not cold in Vietnam by this time -- all you need is a light jacket.
What people wear
Forget about dark-colored clothes -- it's time for white, red, green, yellow or many other colors, I'm sure one of the best things to do is people-watch! In fact, I need to mention here that Santa suits are super popular. A Vietnamese Santa could be staff working in a big mall, a parking attendant at a restaurant, or you might also see two skinny Santas squeezed on to a motorbike with presents acting as a seasonal delivery service. I bet European kids would be confused seeing so many Santas if they found themselves in Hanoi!
We do not have a Christmas tree in each house, but there are many on the streets and in stores -- the malls have the biggest ones of all. Hang Ma, a street in the Old Quarter which sells all kinds of ever-changing holiday decorations, is packed with drive-by buyers on motorbikes and young people busy taking selfies or pictures for their Christmas photo albums.
From the beginning of December or even earlier, the whole of Hanoi has a festive vibe with fairy lights, fake snow, and electric Santas playing saxophones -- the Vietnamese love Christmas, they really do. The traffic is still crazy, maybe even more so, but there is less honking and screaming from angry people because of slow drivers or blocked streets. People tend to slow down, relax and enjoy the atmosphere by watching the lights as well as listening Christmas songs -- it's Christmas magic!
What people do on Christmas Eve?
Instead of staying home and spending time with family, local Vietnamese seem to be keen on heading out to the downtown area to celebrate Christmas. Families have dinner out at a nice restaurant, while young people like to hang out with their friends and have a drink, or walk around the Old Quarter and watch some artists that they randomly pass playing street music. Some dating couples go to the cinema to watch movies. It is usually crazily crowded in this area this time - it's absolutely not recommended for people who cannot stand being skin-to-skin with others.
In Vietnam, foreign travellers are more into celebrating Christmas on a cruise, especially in Halong Bay. But that seems too easy to understand why. Imagine you can enjoy one of the most special time of the year with your beloved one in the middle of the sea. Not regular sea, it’s Halong Bay – The UNESCO World Heritage site which is famous for thousands of limestone islands with wonderful scenery that is unable to find somewhere else on this planet.
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Hotline: +84-982 04 2426
Address: 27A6 Dam Trau, Hai Ba Trung, Ha Noi, Viet Nam