Walking through the city center of Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 on any given night in December is an assault on your senses. Christmas tunes stream through shop fronts and the hotels, restaurants and stores are decorated with vibrant, almost Tokyo-esque neon lights attracting Saigonese like moths to a lantern.
Pedestrians crowd the sidewalks taking in the sights and snapping pics on smartphones. Add in a sea of motorbikes traveling up streets lined with fairy lights and what you are experiencing is the Saigon’s version of Christmas.
The action centers on the corner of Nguyen Hue and Le Loi and stretches through Dong Khoi and Hai Ba Trung. Walking through these streets can be maddening and be aware of your surroundings when crossing any of these busy streets. Make sure you read up on our Top 5 tips for crossing the street in Vietnam for some pointers. Mixing in with the street traffic and motorcycles are street vendors selling all sorts of goods from Santa hats to snacks and drinks.
Although predominantly Buddhist, Christmas is one of four religious holidays celebrated in Vietnam and Saigon’s Catholic population celebrates Christmas with style. The Catholic churches that dot the city are decorated with gaily covered nativity scenes and fairy lights and church services are also extended for the holiday season.
And it isn’t just Saigon that celebrates with such aplomb. With it’s cooler temperatures, Hanoi is a great city to get into the Christmas celebrations. To get in the spirit, head to Hang Ma street in the Old Quarter. The street transforms into heaven on earth for those looking to buy ornaments and Christmas related trinkets. In Nha Trang, Tran Phu boulevard is lit up with Christmas lights and displays.
Christmas in Vietnam is still in it’s infancy and you won’t see any crazy Black Friday type sale promotions any time soon. Thankfully, the holiday isn’t centered around shopping and only recently students and young Vietnamese exchange gifts. So brave the crowds and get into the spirit of Christmas in Vietnam.