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It looks like Vicky and I will be spending the holidays in Vietnam. Given that here, they celebrate the Chinese New Years (Lunar Calendar) , we weren’t expecting much in the ways of holiday cheer. On the contrary, there is much in the ways of merriment. Let’s start with the basics: Can you say Merry Christmas in Vietnamese? “Giáng sinh vui vẻ.” Vietnam, with its diverse culture, rich history, and breathtaking landscapes provides for an enriching and memorable Christmas holiday. In fact, quite surprisingly, we have run into our fair share of Christian Vietnamese. Moreover, there are hoards of foreigners here and I suspect many will spend their holidays here as well. So, at the very least, the country caters to them. Either way, whether you’ve been doing the same thing for years and are looking for a change, seeking adventure or just wanting a relaxing vacation, Vietnam has so much to offer. While it can be difficult to break tradition and spend the holidays away from friends and family, the positive aspects of having an alternative Christmas in this distant land of “peace and quiet” far outweigh the bad.
The observation of Christmas is more of a recent fascination for the predominantly Buddhist nation. As the country becomes more and more westernized and influenced by Christianity, it has adopted the celebration of the holiday. So even though you may not have a white Christmas (it’s currently 31 degrees Celsius where we are), with snow-oriented activities during the day and chilly evenings spent by a warm fire drinking mulled wine, you can still celebrate the holiday. Like many people, the Vietnamese celebrate Christmas with elaborate decorations, nativity scenes (some are void of Jesus) and light displays, with large feasts, and the practice of giving gifts. For most, Christmas Eve is more important than the actual day. That night, Christians and even non-Christians head to midnight mass and then return home for dinner. The Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City has one of the largest and more festive gatherings. There is no negating the infectious yuletide spirit that fills the air. However, the celebration of Christmas is not the only alluring aspect of Vietnam. Its people are very welcoming and friendly and are eager to share their culture and rich land. From the bustling streets of the country’s capital, Hanoi, the ancient temples of Cao Dai , the floating markets of Can Tho to the mythical caves of Phong Nha Ke Bang, the azure waters of the Cham and Con Dao Islands, the visual the scenery and landscapes are truly breathtaking. Vicky and I are just beginning to get our feet wet in this country and we are loving it! Although the Christmas meal may not consist of the traditional food you’re accustomed to, the cuisine in Vietnam is as diverse and flavorful as its people. Of course, it is known for the traditional Pho soup and spring rolls (nem). The exotic tropical fruits and fresh produce are sumptuous, while the fish is always fresh and expertly prepared. After two months in China we were ready for a change and food and Vietnam delivers! Really, the only thing standing between you and a fun and exciting Christmas in Vietnam is your plane ticket. While the country is pretty affordable, the flight there can be a bit costly. Don’t worry, you can easily make up for that by selling any unwanted electronics to musicMagpie. Then, you’ll be all set to enjoy your alternative Christmas abroad.