Christmas in Vietnam (Southeast Asia)
A Brief History
Officially known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vietnam is one of the last remaining communist governments in the world. The first missionaries to Vietnam came from Portugal at the beginning of the 16th century. Vietnam is traditionally a Buddhist country, so Christmas was not introduced to this country until French rule during the late 1800’s. After South Vietnam fell to communist rule in 1975, Christmas could no longer be openly celebrated by Vietnamese Christians. However, in the 1980’s new reforms were introduced and now Christmas is considered a major festival.
The celebration of Christmas is western in terms of presents, décor and food. All the secular signs of Christmas are greatly enjoyed by Vietnamese of all religions. On Christmas Eve, Christians attend a midnight Mass, then return home for a delicious Christmas dinner. All the churches, and some houses will have a very large nativity scene.
Children look forward to visits from Santa Claus and gifts in their stockings or shoes. Santa Claus is Ong Gia No-en or Old Man Noel. Due to the French influence children put their shoes in front of their homes for Santa to fill with goodies. If the family has a tree, Santa will leave gifts under the tree as well. Merry Christmas in Vietnamese is "Chúc Mừng Giáng Sinh!"The common people will celebrate with chicken soup while those with more means will have turkey and Christmas pudding. Some common dishes that may appear on the menu are Char Siu Bao (steamed pork buns), wontons in broth and rice crepes (Banh Xeo).Thanks to French influence, Christmas Eve meal is called 'reveillon' and will include a 'bûche de Noël,' which is a chocolate cake in the shape of a log for desert. Since food presents are a popular gift in Vietnam, bûche de Noël is often given as a present.
Despite war, Western colonization, and Marxist Communism, Vietnam is emerging from its tumultuous past with renewed strength. Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Pray for continued growth and hope for its people.
Pray for Vietnamese Christians who face persecution. Those who convert to Christianity from Buddhist or ethnic-animist backgrounds face the strongest persecution, which comes not only from the authorities, but also from families, friends and neighbors. On November 18, 2016, the communist government adopted a new Law on Belief and Religion, which limits freedom of religion considerably. Pray for family members pressuring their relatives to return to traditional faiths and rituals.