Christmas in Thanh Hoa
Christmas is not a big religious holiday or consumer holiday for that matter in Vietnam as is it is in the US and other western countries. Vietnam has no state religion and the majority of the population has no religious affiliation; with roughly 8% of the population listed as Roman-Catholics or Protestants, Christmas is somewhat of an afterthought if not only a marketing tool adopted from the west (which is prevalent in the capital city of Hanoi and Saigon) to many people.
This is especially true in the small city of Thanh Hoa, Vietnam. In the days leading up to Christmas, evidence of Christmas was nowhere to be found in the streets. Businesses, offices and schools do not cater or schedule their calendar around the holiday; in fact many college students at nearby Hong Duc University will have their end of year exams on the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and many businesses and offices will be open for business as usual.
Living in Thanh Hoa, Christmas caught me a little off guard as well, busy with work I did not notice that Christmas was coming up this weekend. Had it not been for an invite from a little girl who was performing in one of the events I would have missed the local Christmas festivities at the main church in Thanh Hoa altogether.Click to view slideshow.
As I made my way to the Church on the first day of events, I found a heavily decorated Bishop House and church with Christmas scenes and lights that left me in awe. Seminary students spent over a week working day and night building and decorating the elaborate Christmas scenes of mountains, caves, and nativity scene. The magnitude and scale of investment, in terms resources and time that went into preparing and hosting the event, had me reevaluating the impact of the holiday in Thanh Hoa.
For one week the festivities attracted thousands of local parishioners and residents wanting to get a glimpse of the beautiful decorations. People came in masses every night to see the decorations and to attend the week long festivities of events which included:
- Youth Night – local children put on a entertainment filled night with dances, songs, and gifting of presents to children.
- Choir Competition – choir groups from districts near and far come to compete for best choir group in the spirit of the Christmas holiday.
- Entertainment Night – singers, dancers, and circus acts were invited from near and far to take part of a 23 performance program that lasted over 4 hours.
- Parade – over 50 floats decked with flowers and Christmas lighting paraded through streets while local parishioners follow behind caroling Christmas and religious hymns.
- Christmas Eve Mass
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