The last time I saw Christmas Day in Vietnam was in 1969, at Nui Dat, which was our combat base at the time (when the South was still free). So here I am in 2006, after working for almost 11 years in Vietnam, having my second Christmas Day "in country".
I imagine that it is not so much the work ethic that keeps all the places open today but more of what one would expect under a communist/socialist regime...all following the edicts of the long departed Uncle Ho who was not all that keen on any form of religion in the Christian field. Perhaps that is why there are so many Catholics in this area who fled from the north to escape religious persecution, and wisely so, as the history of that era shows.
There was nothing religious or Christmas orientated even on TV apart from a cartoon and a very old movie on the cable. The local TV had the usual fare, Vietcong female heroines blowing up a hundred tanks with one grenade, etc...more suited for the north, perhaps, where they may actually believe such drivel.
Yesterday, being Christmas Eve, was the big day here and indeed the local community does celebrate. The streets are decked with lights and there was even a procession of Vietnamese Santa Clauses on motorcycles who wended their way through the narrow little suburban streets handing out small toys and candy to the kids. The more affluent people had the Santa's turn up at their door with pre-paid Xmas presents for their children; unusual but a nice touch.
The weather is pretty good also, the hot and steamy monsoon type weather has gone and the days are a mild 30.C with the nights dropping down to 18.C in Saigon. (Up in Hanoi the days are around the 22.C mark and the nights down to 7.C).
There are a few things missing, though: no plum pudding available anywhere and the turkeys, all imported from the US, were so dear that you would have to be a bank manager or politician to afford one. Still there were plenty of chickens avaiable and pork is plentiful so a good Xmas dinner can still be had.
So that was it... Christmas Day in Saigon. Makes me wonder what it would have been like prior to 1975, slightly different perhaps. :-)
Regards and Merry Christmas to all.
Greetings from Saigon... where 2007 has arrived, or at least I think it is here, somewhere...
It must have slipped in by stealth sometime around midnight last night but you would never know. I went up onto my rooftop patio to welcome in the new year, expecting to see a distant burst of fireworks as the clock reached 12. But alas, nothing, the city and the country was fast asleep.
Quiter than a tomb, much like Christmas was. Not even motorbikes droned in the distance, all silence.
Perhaps it is un-Uncle Ho-like to make a fuss over new year. Who knows? The whole event was as dead as Uncle Ho.
TET will be better, of course. That's the Vietnamese / Chinese New Year, when they will celebrate as the country shuts down for 7 days and there is definately a bit more life on the streets then.
Regards and a Happy New Year from Saigon