Christmas in Hanoi

pc3 Sometimes the world hands you a gift. I just found out that I will be spending Christmas and the first ten days of the new year in Hanoi. I've been invited to participate in a conference on the translation of Vietnamese literature and its reception abroad, mostly in the English-speaking world. When I came back home from my trip to Vietnam last spring, I thought it would be at least a year before I returned, perhaps longer. I'd been a little disappointed in my failure to make more contacts and get more projects going during my spring trip, but apparently I was planting seeds that will now begin to germinate. I hope so. I spent Christmas of 2000 in Hanoi, which is when I took the picture of the boy selling Santa Claus decorations. Christmas is not a holiday of central importance in Vietnamese culture except to the 10% of the population that is Catholic, but as in the West it has begun to be a commercial holiday even for non-believers. (In general, Catholics in Vietnam are probably more intensely religious that the followers of Tam Giao, or "triple religion," the combination of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism that most Vietnamese at least nominally subscribe to and that overlies an even deeper level of animism.) I am delighted to return to Vietnam, however briefly, and to meet others interested in the diffusion of Vietnamese literature around the world. And as soon as I return, still jet-lagged, I will begin teaching my course, Understanding Vietnam, at Clarkson. Though the course focuses on the history and culture of Vietnam, we use literature to illuminate and illustrate those subjects, so the conference discussions will certainly inform my teaching next semester.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

8 thoughts on “Christmas in Hanoi”

  1. I think you might find a big change from your last Christmas here.

    Hanoi goes crazy now on Christmas Eve. Get a seat in a bar or restaurant early and then watch the streets fill up outside.

    Have a great trip.

  2. Hi
    I am a reporter from Vietnam Television. I am going to make a report about expatriates spending Christmas in Vietnam for our TV’s cultural magazine. I am writing to ask you if you can be our featured character for the report when you come to Hanoi.

    If you are interested in our program, please contact me through my email. I will be more than happy to inform you more about us and the program.

    I am looking forwards to hearing from you.

    Best Regards,

    Nguyen Hong Nhung
    Reporter, English News Division, VTV International
    Vietnam Television, 43 Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, Hanoi

  3. Hello.
    i just found out myself that i will probably spend my christmas in Hanoi. since i`m traveling alone, do you know any place where it`s easy to hook up with some locals to celebrate with?
    any backpacker area or studen area that you know of?


  4. The Old Quarter and the area west of Hoan Kiem Lake are the places where you are most likely to find young people travelling on their own. Check out Hang Hanh and Hang Trong (which is probably where I’ll be). Both of these are just south of the Old Quarter, where there are lots of bars and guesthouses and tourist services.

  5. We are a french retired couple and will be for Christmas in Hanoi. We would like to meet other people like us to have fun together on this special day

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