It’s that time of year again – the stockings are hung, the hot chocolate is on the stove, the house smells like pine trees and cinnamon and “It’s a Wonderful Life” is playing softly in the background… oh wait. It’s 90 and sunny and smells like pho, rice cakes and coffee…and I still can’t seem to stop sweating.
To all those concerned friends and family members who worry that I won’t get my share of Christmas traditions this year – have no fear. The holiday spirit is alive and well in Vietnam – it’s just expressed a little differently.
Despite that a minority of the population is actually Christian and thus very few people actually understand the meaning behind Christmas (remember that whole Jesus’s birthday thing?), everyone in Vietnam seems to be an adamant supporter of the occasion. In fact, earlier today I drove past two Buddhist monks with their hands full of gifts wrapped in red and green “Merry Christmas!” wrapping paper.
Luckily, the Christmas holiday supports the Asian obsession for things that sparkle and glow and therefore Christmas decorations (and by decorations I mean anything that contains flashing lights or glitter – but preferably both) highlights every food stall, clothing store and building. Workers have been hanging lights in District 1 for at least two weeks (they have yet to be turned on) and there are many poor employees forced to wear Santa costumes in the hot mid-day heat while George Micheal’s “Last Christmas I Gave you my Heart” (a Vietnamese favorite) seems to play on repeat throughout the city. This city puts any American city to SHAME. What more could a girl need to get into the Christmas spirit?
While my friend Dana’s blog goes into the specific peculiarities of the Vietnamese taste in Christmas décor, (http://saigonstranger.wordpress.com/) this scene is one of my personal favorites. It really brings a new provocative angle to the abominable snowman, while the Christmas cannon is a intriguing creative alternative to the traditional sleigh.
All in all, I simply want to wish all my friends (both in Vietnam and back home) and family a most wonderful and peaceful Christmas and a happy new year! I am thinking of you all always (while lounging by the pool).
Peace, Love and Happy Holidays from Saigon.