Asia | Inspiration

How is Christmas celebrated in Vietnam?

Recently updated on December 7th, 2020 at 03:47 pm

The vast majority of Vietnam is Buddhist – but that doesn’t stop them from celebrating Christmas. The Vietnamese are fun-loving people and welcome all kinds of festivals as a way to get together and party. For most Vietnamese, Christmas is more of a novelty than a religious event and it isn’t an official holiday. However, 8% of the population are Christians, so you’ll find many spiritual aspects such as Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. You’ll also still see Christmas decorations lighting up the big cities and hear carols in stores and markets! From delicious feasts to amazing nativity scenes, here’s how to celebrate Christmas in Vietnam.

The Christmas feast

Like every other country that celebrates Christmas, it’s all about the feast! Many restaurants in Vietnam offer Christmas buffets and menus with traditional foods like roast turkey and Christmas pudding. But you can also find delicious Vietnamese cuisine like noodle soup to enjoy on Christmas Day.

Since Vietnam was once part of the French empire, many French traditions have influenced the Vietnamese Christmas traditions. Some locals like to enjoy the ‘reveillon’, a traditional French dinner held on Christmas Eve. It’s famed for its luxurious dishes like oysters, escargot and the bûche de Noël, a chocolate, log-shaped cake for dessert. The Vietnamese also like to give gifts at Christmas, and a bûche de Noël is a common gift. Who wouldn’t want a big chocolate cake for Christmas?

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Vietnamese Santa

It’s very hot for Santa in Vietnam, but that doesn’t mean he can’t wear his traditional red suit – Vietnamese style. You’ll find Santa outfits in shops around the country, and prepare to see hundreds of kids dressed as little Santas walking around the big cities. Like most other countries, kids in Vietnam believe in Santa Claus and he’s known as ‘Ông già Noel’, meaning ‘Christmas old man’. You can even hire someone to dress up as Santa and deliver presents to your house at midnight! 

Christmas decorations

The big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh go all out for Christmas. You’ll see department stores, hotels and streets decked out in extravagant Vietnamese Christmas decorations like twinkling lights, trees, candy canes, snowflakes and much more. It’s a magical experience to wander the streets and marvel at the kaleidoscope of lights and colour. 

You’ll also hear Christmas carols ringing out of shops, restaurants and hotels, and you’ll be amazed by how many Christmas carols the locals know – even though Christmas isn’t officially celebrated here. 

If you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to check out the Nguyen Hue Walking Street for the biggest, brightest displays. The streets will be packed with excited people and it’s a truly wonderful atmosphere. 


Christmas church services

Although Catholics only make up around 8% of Vietnam’s population, there are many stunning churches across the country and they’re a hub for celebrations at Christmas. Many Christians and locals of other religions go to Midnight Mass services on Christmas Eve, then return home for the delicious festive feast. 

If you’re looking for the best churches to visit on Christmas Eve, head to the striking Saint Joseph Cathedral (the Big Church) in Hanoi or the beautiful Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s the biggest church in southern Vietnam and people gather there to pray almost every night during the week before Christmas.

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Nativity scenes

Every Catholic church, and some Christian homes in Vietnam, set up a ‘creche’ or nativity scene at Christmas. Some churches even have life-sized statues of baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and they often decorate the whole street, transforming it into a Christmas wonderland. The locals love to wander around the nativity scenes, and it’s a great opportunity to take some gorgeous photos to remember your Christmas in Vietnam.


Many stores in Vietnam put on big sales at Christmas time, where tourists and locals alike love to grab a bargain and splurge on gifts for loved ones. Get some toys for the kids, some local Vietnamese souvenirs, or splash out on a quality tailored suit or dress – a speciality of Vietnam. 

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Relaxing on the beach

With thousands of kilometres of shimmering coastline, there’s nothing better than heading to the beach to celebrate Christmas in Vietnam. Join the locals in a bar and enjoy a meal, sing some carols, and watch the sunset over the ocean.

Have you ever experienced Christmas in Vietnam? Let us know in the comments below!

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