In Vietnam, Christmas Eve is often more important than Christmas Day. Christmas is not an official public holiday and many people think it is just a holiday for Christians.
In the city of Ho Chi Minh (which is the largest city in Vietnam and which used to be called Saigon) people (especially young people) like to go to the city center, where there is a Catholic cathedral. The streets are full of people on Christmas Eve and in the center of the city cars are not allowed to stay overnight.
People celebrate by throwing confetti, taking pictures and enjoying the Christmas decorations and the lights of the big hotels and department stores. Many cafes and restaurants are open for people to enjoy a snack!
There are not many people in Vietnam who are Christian, but some people like to go to Midnight Mass services to watch the Nativity games and listen to Christmas music.
Vietnam used to be part of the French Empire and there are still French influences on Christmas traditions.
All churches, and some Christian homes, will have a nativity scene or “nursery” scene. Many Catholic churches have a large scene with almost life-size statues of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, shepherds and animals.
In some areas of the city of Ho Chi Minh, generally in Catholic parishes, people have large scenes of cribs in front of their houses and decorate the whole street, turning it into a Christmas area! These are popular for people to visit and watch the scenes.
Merry Christmas in Vietnamese is Chuć Mưǹg Giańg Sinh. Happy / Merry Christmas in many more languages
Also like in France, the special food of Christmas Eve is called ‘reveillon’ and has a ‘bûche de Noël’ (a chocolate cake with the shape of a trunk) for the desert. Vietnamese people like to give gifts and, at Christmas, a búche de Noël is a popular gift. Other Christmas gifts are not very common, although some young people like to exchange Christmas cards.
It’s very hot for Santa Claus in Vietnam and it can not be very comfortable to wear all that velvet in a hot country! Santa is called ‘calledng già Noel’ (means old Christmas).