One December morning, you wake up in Saigon and suddenly feel chilly air brushing through your skin, that’s how you know it’s Christmas time. The city is usually hot all year around so Saigonese are very sensitive even to the slightest change in weather. A single “winter” breeze is enough for people to recognize that finally, Christmas is right around the corner.
One of the earliest signs of holiday season doesn’t come from the church or the Catholic neighborhoods, but from the department stores, cafes and shops along every street you pass by. They put on Christmas decorations very early. As if they have been waiting all November to finally be the first ones to announce that Christmas is here. Hence, Saigonese have a very unique hobby every Christmas and that is to roam around the streets and enjoy the colorful decorations. You can easily see a lot of couples and families wearing their best outfits, hanging out and taking pictures next to beautiful Christmas designs.
Pine trees are usually a traditional Western ornament for the holiday. But in Saigon, where it never snows, people use different kinds of materials to put up their own creative pine tree. For example, this pine tree which is made of corn cobs gives a very Vietnamese touch to the normal image we often see.
To the Catholic, Christmas is still considered a very important occasion and they celebrate this holiday by attend a Midnight mass on the 24th and some churches even reenact the event of Jesus being born.
Some Catholic neighborhoods are very popular for their Christmas decorations, which they’ve put a lot time and effort into. Almosts every house in this kind of neighborhood has their own crib scene or “creche” with statue of Mother Mary, Saint Joshep and baby Jesus surrounded by animals in front of their house. Some even put on a lot of lights on the façade of the house, turning the whole street into a glorious scene of vibrant colours. People, religious or not, come to these places to admire the beautiful view and indulge in the festive atmosphere every year.
Unlike Christmas in Western countries, where the holiday is time for family reunion, Vietnamese Christmas is mostly for friends to hang out with each other. Rather than sitting at home, eating a cozy family dinner, Saigonese would go out with their loved ones and immerse themselves in the joyful spririt of holiday season.
Although Christmas is not officially a national holiday, Saigonese still celebrate this special occasion in their very own way. Try and visit the city during Christmas time, you’ll see just how much we love this holiday!
Written by: Thien Khanh
Designed by: Tan Le
Image sources: Google, Kenh14, etc.