Christmas has long been celebrated by the Christian communities in Vietnam as part of their religious practice. Although it’s not an official public holiday, Christmas is becoming more popular among non-Christians in recent years as a social holiday in Vietnam.
Most stores, restaurants, and businesses remain in regular operations. When traveling Vietnam during this time of the year, you will certainly catch the festive vibes and still be able to experience the country without any disruptions!
If you’re sending customers to Vietnam during Christmas, be sure to check with us on peak season pricing as well as potential compulsory dinners at certain hotels.
Interested in learning more about how the Vietnamese celebrate this holiday? Let us help you explore it further.
Among Christianity Followers
Christianity in Vietnam accounts for 18% of the country’s population consisting of 14% Catholics and 4% Protestants 1. Here Christmas Eve is considered more important than Christmas Day.
Vietnam used to be part of the French Empire and there are still many French influences in Christmas traditions. Merry Christmas in Vietnamese is “Mừng Chúa Giáng Sinh”. All churches, and some Catholic homes, will have a nativity crib scene or “crèche”. Many Catholic churches have a big scene with nearly life size statues of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the shepherds, and animals as seen below. (‘hang đá’ in Vietnamese)
In Hanoi and Saigon, people like to go into the city center, where there is a Catholic Cathedral (St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi and Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon). The streets are crowded with people on Christmas Eve and in the city center cars are not allowed for the night. Many non-Christians like to go to Midnight Mass services to watch the Nativity plays and hear Christmas music. They’re celebrate by throwing confetti, taking pictures, and enjoying the Christmas decorations and lights from big hotels and department stores.
In many areas across the country, especially in Saigon, usually in Catholic parishes, people have nativity scenes in front of their houses and decorate their streets, turning them into a Christmas wonderland! 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 dessert. Vietnamese people like to give presents of food and at Christmas a bûche de Noël is a popular gift.
It is becoming more popular as a social holiday among non-Christian Vietnamese today. In addition to churches and public spaces, residential neighborhoods are often decked out with Christmas decorations in recent years. More families now decorate their houses and exchange presents.
In big cities like Hanoi, Saigon, and Danang, the center streets are filled with enormous crowds of people. We suggest not traveling by car near these areas as it’s almost impossible to move around. Walking and Grab bike (the equivalent of Uber and with motorbikes) are your best bet.
Make sure to carry water with you as weaving through the crowds could be physically challenging! But for a once in a lifetime experience, we say go for it!
Did you know there is a whole Santa business where drivers dress up as Santa to deliver presents to little kids as ordered by their parents? And Vietnamese Santa’s are very young! It’s very hot for Santa is called “ Ông già Noel” in Saigon or South of Vietnam due to warmer weather. It can’t be very comfortable wearing all that velvet in the hot cities!
Christmas presents aren’t very common, although some young people (students, friends, coworkers, etc) like to exchange Christmas cards. Couples sometimes exchange gifts on this occasion. It’s no exaggeration when they say it’s expensive to be with a Vietnamese woman as there’s always a special occasion to give her presents (as they deserve)!
We hope this blog gives you a good glimpse into what Vietnam is like during the Holidays season! If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact us. Merry Christmas!
Photo credits: Flickr, VNExpress, Vietnamnet.
References on celebration among Christmas are anonymous. If you recognize the source, please let us know so we can give them the appropriate credits. Thanks!