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By Sera Sekerci

Following the recent festive season, I thought it might be of interest to provide some insight into how the holidays are observed in Viet Nam.  Both Christmas and the celebration of the New Year according to the Roman calendar pass by with scant regard for the average Vietnamese working person.  Businesses tend to operate on their usual schedules and most people go about their everyday lives just as normal.  The wealthier Vietnamese people tend to be more “westernised” and might have a special dinner or family gathering for Christmas and/or New Year.

Most language schools offer their employees a couple of days off for these holidays and obviously this is appreciated.  The international schools provide the entire festive period as a holiday but, as a teacher who arranges my own private classes, I only received time off from work by my own request.

The majority of foreign teachers here like to celebrate Christmas and since relatively few have families, we rely on the strongly interconnected expat community in lieu of spending time with our relatives back home.  There are a variety of hotels and restaurants that put on special deals, ranging from Christmas dinners to buffets with open bars.  The latter is that for which I opted, primarily because many of my expat friends were also attending.  The cost was 400000 Vietnamese Dong, which might seem a lot but this equates to about $20. For New Year, again there are a variety of options.  Restaurants, pubs and nightclubs that cater mainly to expats offer special promotions and events in order to accommodate our aspirations to celebrate.

For Vietnamese people, the main holiday of the year is Tết.  This is the New Year holiday based on the traditional lunar calendar.  The date of Tết Holiday varies every year but this year it falls on January 23rd.  Most people leave the cities during this time and, as most city dwellers are from the countryside, they return there to their family homes for up to a month.  This offers foreign teachers the opportunity to travel as well.  I plan to visit Cambodia this year since I have never been there before and there are many things to see and do. Also, I need to renew my visa and it is much easier and more affordable if one leaves the country and reenters. Finally, it is a relatively cheap option – flights from Ha Noi to anywhere outside Viet Nam rise in price considerably around Tết but a flight to Ho Chi Minh City and then a bus to Cambodia is pretty affordable.

So regardless of where in the world you are and, however and whenever you celebrate your holidays, I would just like to wish you… chúc mừng năm mới  (Happy New Year)!



Note about the author: David Wilson is a British-born English language teacher working in Hanoi, Vietnam.

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