Similar to traditional Vietnamese Tet, Christmas is a most important holiday for many expats. The celebration is important not only because it is a major religious holiday for Christians and is widely celebrated worldwide, but also an occasion for family reunions.

Wayne Worrell, a British expat and his children are busily decorating their house in Hanoi for Christmas Eve. Photo: Hoang Huy/The Hanoi Times

Wherever they go, foreigners will feel a pleasant and warm Christmas like in their homeland. This year, quite a few foreign expatriates and international travelers have chosen Vietnam as their holiday destination, while others have brought the festive atmosphere of their home countries to the Vietnamese city where they live. Everyone is looking forward to a warm and merry Christmas.

On the streets, Yuletide is in the air… Days before Christmas Eve, streets in Hanoi’s downtown have been filled with colorful decorations. Christians and non-Christians, Hanoians and foreigners eagerly awaited the arrival of Christmas.

On Christmas day, locals and foreigners crowded St. Joseph’s Cathedral to witness the giant Christmas tree and shimmering decorations.

Vinod, an Indian tourist, told The Hanoi Times that he finds more people celebrating Christmas here than in his homeland, with all the sparkly lighting and vibrant atmosphere.

Vibrant Christmas Eve in St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Tu/The Hanoi Times 

As for those who have lived in Vietnam for years like Katie Hunt, an Irish expat, this is where she and her fellow countrymen usually get together this holiday.

“Now we’re celebrating Christmas by West Lake and as you can see, it’s really bustling. We decorated everything here together, it’s fantastic. I feel a little down because I usually spend time like this with my family and friends back home. But, you see, here I already have my second family, so my homesickness is more or less relieved,” she shared with The Hanoi Times.

They played a traditional Irish quiz game, which is organized every Yuletide. It may feel a bit different, yet gathering together and celebrating the year-end holiday warms up all the Irish expatriates.

David Di Nogla, an Irish expat in Hanoi, said that two weeks before Christmas, he usually spends time with his family and relaxes in his hometown.

“But I always want to bring the atmosphere and warmth there to Vietnam. Here we don’t wait until Christmas, but the whole week is filled with our festivities, for Vietnamese to feel that Christmas has begun even before the official date,” he stated.

 Santa Claus is handing over gifts to children in Hanoi. Photo: JW Marriott Hotel Hanoi

Wayne Worrell, a British who works as a teacher at an international school in Hanoi, also celebrated this year’s Christmas in Hanoi with his little family. When his class was over, Wayne prepared to spend the holidays with his children.

No matter how busy he is at work, for more than eight years he has always enjoyed the last days of the year with his family. In Vietnam or in his hometown, such a holiday will be one of his happiest moments.

“Every year during Christmas, we all have our friends coming to join the cooking and the party. Over time, Christmas to me is spending time with my family,” he said.

“My wife is Vietnamese, so at first, she thought that Christmas was for me but not for her. Gradually, she has gotten along well with it, which is now a new traditional culture of hers,” he added.

Christmas has truly become part of everyone’s cultural and spiritual activities regardless of their religions. A warm and merry Christmas is now lovingly celebrated, heralding the coming new year.

The funky decoration for Christmas Eve at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Tu/The Hanoi Times