Christmas was probably promulgated in Vietnam since the 19th century when the French set its domination in Vietnam, especially in Southern Vietnam. Christmas is also called Nativity, Noel, Xmas, or Yule. Christmas is celebrated by Christians to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem Cave in Judea (Roman). Christmas is usually held in the evening December 24, or December 25 in solar calendar. For those who follow “Eastern Orthodox Church” officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church, they celebrate Christmas on January 7 according to calendar of Gregory (Russians). Christmas in Vietnam is annually organized after Thanksgiving. Today Vietnam Christmas has become a festival celebrated annually in Vietnam and in many other countries in the world. It is also known as a signal for a winter holiday in Vietnam. It is seen as a traditional custom and international festival in Vietnam, without distinguish the origin of religion. During Christmas in Vietnam, apart from religious rituals such as Holy Mass held in the church in the evening of December 24, images of crib recalls the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem Cave.
The number of Catholics originally accounts a small proportion in population in Vietnam, but Vietnam Christmas is quite peacefully held during the period of French colonialism. However, after Vietnam reunification, the Communists who were atheists came to power in 1975, Christmas is held more privately. After that, since 1980s when western ideals and influences affected life in Vietnam, this helped in the comeback of Christmas in the country. Today, event of Christmas is one of the major celebrations in Vietnam with much enthusiasm by almost Vietnamese people of almost all religions. The celebration of Christmas is different from regions by regions. In the north of Vietnam, as northerners are impacted greatly by Buddhism, thus, their celebration of Christmas is not as momentous as that in the south of Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh Province is regarded as the spiritual home for millions of Vietnamese Catholics who are living in a predominantly Buddhist country.
All decorations in Christmas in Vietnam are relatively similar to those in the Western countries. Before Christmas day in Vietnam about a week, Vietnamese people often decorate their houses and companies with Christmas trees and colorful accessories. Along the streets in big cities as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, a large number of Santa Claus costumes, artificial Christmas trees, and decorating things are sold widely. Everywhere in big cities from supermarkets, companies to houses are immersed in exciting and colorful atmosphere and cheerful melodies of Christmas songs. Many famous amusement centers become gathering places of young people and children who come there to entertain and take part in activities welcoming Christmas. Before Christmas Eve, young Vietnamese people often present their friends and relatives beautiful and cute Christmas cards, small gifts, or just simple but meaningful messages via email or phones and exchange best wishes.
On Christmas Eve, devout Christians attend a midnight Mass. Thereupon, they return to their homes for the Christmas supper which is the most important meal of the Vietnamese Christmas. The traditional meal consists of chicken soup and the well-heeled tuck, instead of turkey and Christmas pudding. During the eve, Vietnamese people who are Catholics or not, especially young people go to the churches to enjoy the joyous atmosphere of Christmas Eve. They celebrate by throwing confetti, taking pictures with friends and relatives to record funny moments. Otherwise, they drop by cafés and restaurants to have some snack after leaving the churches. For Vietnamese Catholics in the north, hundreds of Catholics come together to churches for Christmas Eve. During the eve, children present a nativity play in the church to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is common knowledge that the existence of Santa Claus is still in mind of children cross the world. Vietnamese children believe that Santa Clause will pop in their houses and put gifts in their shoes hang in front of doors on Christmas Eve. And, they will wake up on the morning of December 25 then find their presents in their shoes or laid under the Christmas tree.
As being one of big and common holidays in Vietnam, Christmas is also an occasion for social charity organizations to hold programs of delivering gifts to orphanage children, the elder, the homeless, the poor, and the disable. These programs have the participations of young volunteers who will act as “Santa Claus” and bring gifts to orphans, hospitals and community houses. These activities of both Vietnamese and international organizations have a significant meaning to the disadvantaged people, proving humanity between people and people in Vietnamese society. Christmas gradually becomes a public Vietnam holiday, albeit not an officially holiday. Many companies in Vietnam allow their employees to have a day off work in Christmas day. Christmas in Vietnam is an occasion of practicing exciting community culture.