Christmas In Vietnam | Traditions, History and Significance

1. Introducing a Vietnamese Christmas!

Welcome to Vietnam, and Merry Christmas! If you’re visiting this December, get ready to experience how Vietnamese do Christmas, which beautifully blends unique Vietnamese traditions with vibrant modern celebrations. Imagine strolling down Nguyen Hue Walking Street in Ho Chi Minh City, where the Christmas lights shine brightly, and the festive spirit fills the air. You can attend a Midnight Mass in one of the many Catholic churches or enjoy a lively party in the city center.

You can savor a special Christmas Eve meal, complete with local Vietnamese-style dishes like Pho, international turkey, Christmas pudding, and familiar favorites from the Western world. You can also dine at one of the many incredible international restaurants and hotels for traditional Christmas food. Shop for Christmas presents at local markets and discover trendy local brands.

Vietnam’s Christmas is a blend of the French Empire’s influence and local customs. You can witness life-sized statues in big nativity crib scenes, the joyous sound of Christmas carols, and the sight of Santa Claus outfits as you revel in the vibrant Christmas day and night celebrations. Vietnam is an awesome place to spend Christmas!

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2. Does Vietnam Celebrate Christmas?

It may surprise readers to discover that, reflecting both Vietnamese Christmas traditions and Western influences, Vietnam does celebrate Christmas. As the home of over 7 million Christians – the 5th largest Christian population in Asia – Vietnam embraces Christmas celebrations with enthusiasm.

christmas in vietnam
Tan Dinh church, Famous Church in HCMC, Viet Nam. Photo by Jet dela cruz

3. History and Significance of Christmas in Vietnam

Missionaries from Portugal, Spain, and France, part of the French Empire, first introduced Christianity to Vietnam in the 16th century. Despite initial acceptance, Christianity faced challenges and bans. Under French colonization, Catholicism flourished. After 1975, with the Doi Moi reforms and Western influences, religious freedoms in Vietnam increased, allowing for the open practice of the Catholic faith.

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COCHINCHINA – Cholon young working girls 1910s. Photo by Manhhai

4. How Vietnamese Celebrate Christmas

Christmas decorations and carols create a festive atmosphere despite Christmas Day not being a official public holiday here. For many Vietnamese, Christmas is more of a novelty, with locals, especially the youth, enjoying the festivities through decorations, shopping, and photo sessions.

Christmas Decorations and Dressing Up

City center shopping malls and department stores are decorated with Christmas trees and lights. Public areas like Nguyen Hue Walking Street in Ho Chi Minh City are adorned with tinsel, confetti, and lights. Religious communities decorate their homes and churches with nativity scenes and traditional ornaments. People also enjoy dressing up in Santa Claus outfits, embracing the holiday season.

a Xom Dao in Ho Chi Minh city on Christmas nights. Photo by Thanh Nien - Christmas In Vietnam | Traditions, History and Significance
Xom Dao in Ho Chi Minh city on Christmas nights. Photo by Thanh Nien

Vietnamese Christmas Traditions

Christmas Eve is more widely celebrated in Vietnam, with Midnight Mass services being a common practice in many Catholic churches across Vietnam. In addition to joyous celebrations and caroling, children from Christian families often participate in recreating the nativity scene and play.

Food At Christmas

After midnight mass, families enjoy a Christmas meal that often includes Pho or turkey, local foods like Banh Xeo and bao buns, and desserts like bûche de noël, a log-shaped chocolate cake. International restaurants and hotels also offer traditional Christmas food like turkey and Christmas pudding.

Christmas Gifts and Symbols in Vietnam

Gift-giving, once primarily a Christian tradition, has become more popular recently. Alongside Santa Claus and Christmas trees, other symbols like wreaths, stars, and mistletoe are common in Vietnam. Churches celebrate with bells ringing, and red, symbolizing Jesus Christ, is prominently featured.

5. Christmas Eve & Christmas Day – Where to Celebrate?

Ho Chi Minh City

The Christmas spirit is vividly alive in Ho Chi Minh City, especially around the Notre Dame Cathedral, Tan Dinh Church, and Diamond Plaza. The major streets like Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Le Duan transform into festive hotspots adorned with lights and decorations. Here, you can immerse yourself in the holiday cheer while exploring the vibrant urban landscape. Don’t miss the chance to dine in some of the best restaurants, offering special Christmas menus and celebrations. Here, you can immerse yourself in the holiday cheer while exploring the vibrant urban landscape.

Learn about Ho Chi Minh City, including the best places to dine, stay, and explore.

Noel decorations in a hem in Ho Chi Minh city. Photo by Thanh Nien - Christmas In Vietnam | Traditions, History and Significance
Noel decorations in an alley in Ho Chi Minh city. Photo by Thanh Nien

Hanoi

In the heart of Hanoi, St Joseph’s Cathedral is a centerpiece of Christmas celebrations. The area, along with Danang’s Tran Phu Street, becomes a hub of festivity, adorned with beautiful lights and decorations. The historic charm of Hanoi adds a unique touch to the holiday season, offering a blend of traditional and modern celebrations. Be sure to explore the city’s culinary delights that become even more special during Christmas.

Learn about Hanoi, including the best places to dine, stay, and explore.

Noel in Hang Ma Ha Noi. Photo by Bao Lao Dong - Christmas In Vietnam | Traditions, History and Significance
Noel in Hang Ma, Ha Noi. Photo by Bao Lao Dong

Southern Tropical Christmas Escapes

Head to tropical paradises like Phu Quoc for those seeking a warmer Christmas experience. The island’s sandy beaches and sunny skies offer a unique holiday escape where the festive spirit meets the serene beauty of nature. Enjoy beachside Christmas parties, special seafood dinners, and the tranquil ambiance of the ocean.

Learn about Phu Quoc, including the best places to dine, stay, and explore with Vietnam Is Awesome.

Christmas in Phu Quoc. Photo on internet - Christmas In Vietnam | Traditions, History and Significance
Christmas in Phu Quoc.

Northern & Central Highlands Christmas Adventure

In the cooler climes of Northern Vietnam, places like Sapa and Dalat present a Christmas experience like no other. These highland towns are known for their ethereal beauty and offer a refreshing contrast to the typical tropical climate. The holiday season in these areas is marked by cool weather, misty mornings, and a chance to enjoy Christmas amidst the hills and valleys adorned with festive decorations.

Learn about Sapa, including the best places to dine, stay, and explore.

Learn about Dalat, including the best places to dine, stay, and explore.

Christmas in Da Lat. Photo by Lam Dong - Christmas In Vietnam | Traditions, History and Significance
Christmas in Da Lat. Photo by Lam Dong
Vote for Your Dream Christmas Holiday Destination in Vietnam

6. Wrapping up a Vietnamese Christmas – Same Same, But Different

And that’s a wrap on our Christmas journey through Vietnam! Isn’t it amazing how every corner, from the city center’s hustle and bustle to the serene ambiance of the Catholic parishes, sparkles with its own kind of holiday magic? Whether you’re soaking up the sun in Southern Vietnam or enjoying a cooler vibe up North, there’s something special in the air during the Christmas season. It’s not just about the twinkling Christmas lights or the beautifully adorned Christmas trees. It’s about the people – the warm-hearted Vietnamese folks celebrating in their own unique style, where Santa Claus might ride a motorbike and Christmas carols blend with local tunes.

And hey, it doesn’t matter if you’re just here for a holiday visit or you’ve been calling Vietnam home for a while; this time of year is for everyone. The joyous spirit, the laughter echoing down the whole street, the sharing of Christmas gifts – it all comes together to make Christmas in Vietnam a truly unforgettable experience. So, whether you’re indulging in a scrumptious Christmas meal or taking part in a Midnight Mass, enjoy every moment. After all, experiencing Christmas in Vietnam is about embracing life, culture, and joy in the most beautiful way possible. Merry Christmas, or as we say here, ‘Chúc Giáng Sinh An Lành’!

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Written by Lauren Tracy
Content Ambassador - Vietnam Is Awesome
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Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Lauren has been living in Vietnam for the past 8 years. Her passion for the travel industry and wealth of experience has led her to become the Content Ambassador at Vietnam Is Awesome.