The 24-year-old Brit Aled invited all of his friends to the Christmas fair in Hanoi’s Tay Ho district as soon as he heard about it.
Aled (second from L) and his friends at the Christmas market on Hanoi’s Au Co Street Dec. 2, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen
Celebrating his first Christmas season abroad, Aled initially thought he would not be able to enjoy the festive season to the fullest in Vietnam. He lamented that there had been no “Christmas vibe” in Hanoi even though Dec. had arrived.
In his home country, he said, the streets were already full of holiday revelers enjoying publicly displayed Christmas colors and decor.
But he felt “at home” when he arrived at a Christmas market on the capital’s Au Co street. He enjoyed live Christmas music performances, holiday food and drinks, and the chance to shop for Christmas gifts at local shops.
“When you are far away from home, it’s nice to have a way to celebrate Christmas,” Aled said. “In our country, Christmas is a very big holiday and it’s nice to celebrate it in Vietnam.”
Anna, a 27-year-old friend of Aled’s, also complimented the fair’s atmosphere.
“I came here two years ago and the event was smaller than this,” she recalled. “It’s nice to see how it’s growing.”
Having settled in Vietnam nine year ago, Louis from France took his wife, sisters-in-law, and children to the winter market.
He said that because it’s not an officially-recognized public holiday, Christmas celebrations are different here than in Europe.
Louis and his family (L) and his sisters-in-law’s families visit a Christmas fair on Hanoi’s Au Co street on Dec. 2, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen
Still, he said that when he dropped by the market he experienced familiar holiday feelings from home. He also met several fellow Christmas-celebraters from France, he said.
As a French father raising a family in Vietnam, Louis also believes the event in the heart of northern Vietnam is a good way to show his children about the meaning of the special winter holiday.
Irishman Gary Devitt, 39, organizer of the market, said this year’s event is the sixth edition.
Around 20 stalls participated in previous years, but Devitt said the figure has now doubled, with 40 stalls presenting products, food, souvenirs, and gifts this year.
Devitt said that as a “big Christmas fan,” his initial motivation was to bring some “Christmas spirit” to Vietnam.
“I moved to Hanoi nearly seven years ago when there was no Christmas here,” he said. “So, I wanted to bring some of the Christmas cheer from Ireland to Vietnam.”
Gary Devitt (in black t-shirt) takes a photo with his wife and a man in a Santa Claus costume. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen
As he started planning the event, Devitt realized that in general, only local Vietnamese attend Vietnamese events, while Western events attracted only Western attendees. Thus, he didn’t shy away from creating a space for foreigners living in Vietnam to celebrate Christmas in person together.
Devitt starts preparing for the fair in Aug. every year. It normally takes him and his wife three months to “get the event together.”
The market has on average welcomed between 2,000 and 2,500 guests over the last few years, he said. But he estimated the number of this year’s visitors to be higher.
This year is the third time homemade sauce seller Igor Pescarolo, a 44-year-old Italian man, and his partner Le Thi Thao, 37, have set up shop here for Christmas.
Pescarolo moved to Vietnam seven years ago. Attending the Christmas market is not the only way he sells his goods, but he still flies from his home in historic central Vietnamese town of Hoi An town to take part in the happening.
He said he likes immersing himself in the festive atmosphere offered by the fair.
This year’s Christmas spirit also attracted Vietnamese visitors.
Vu Thu Linh, 34, a resident of the capital’s Cau Giay District, said she had brought her two sons to shopping malls and hotels to enjoy the Christmas vibe in the past. But this year, she wanted to introduce them to the all-encompassing atmosphere of the Christmas market.
“The fair offers the kids a large venue with lots of space to wander, a variety of shops, a large food hall, and the chance to talk to Santa Claus,” she said.
“I’ll definitely come back in the future.”
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