Losing 13 hours in time zone changes on top of a 30-hour commute landed us in Hanoi mid-day Christmas Eve (never mind that it was midnight to our brains). The first sign of Christmas in Vietnam occurred as we arrived in Ciputra.
Considering that the majority of Ciputra residents are expatriates, this was not surprising. The villa was also decorated for Christmas.
Jet lag allowed us all to sleep well that night. We awoke at a reasonable hour to open presents and make gingerbread pancakes for breakfast.
It was lovely to spend Christmas morning with Sarah, who graciously took our annual family portrait.
After breakfast we headed to services at Hanoi International Church, held in the Hanoi Club hotel.
The Christmas service theme was “Gifts to the Lord.” Congregants signed up in advance to offer gifts ranging from music, both vocal and instrumental, to artwork and cookies. A family from India explained their home traditions.
Hanoi International Church is interdenominational and widely member led. JP was the clergy responsible for the homily and Eucharist that Sunday. As I dipped my bread into the common cup, I accidentally dropped it in. JP offered me a replacement and said that it happened all the time. I’m not so sure about that, but it was nice of him to try to make me feel less clumsy.
After the service there was a period for fellowship, and we helped JP to sort and count the offering. The offering basket contained Vietnamese dong, US dollars, Hong Kong dollars, Thai baht and euros. JP suggested that we change some of our large denomination bills for smaller ones – easier for him to deposit and for us to spend.
JP and his wife Aimee hosted a Christmas potluck at their home in the Swedish Camp. We sampled a variety of American, European and Vietnamese dishes and met many of Hanna’s friends. JP invited me to read When Jesus Was Born – my first international reading!
Because Vietnam is a Communist country, we were not expecting many Christmas trappings outside of church or Ciputra. There turned out to be more than we expected.
Chúc mừng giáng sinh! (Happy Christmas!)*
New Year, of course, is a worldwide celebration. Hanoi rang in 2012 with a flower festival at Hoan Kiem Lake.
We were there for the first of a four-day festival, witnessing final preparations for an 8:00pm opening celebration. The theme of the 2012 festival was “Floral Heritage,” with a nod to Vietnam’s UNESCO heritage sites, including the Temple of Literature and Ha Long Bay. The Dutch embassy provided more than 4,000 pots of lilies for the event.
Chúc mừng năm mới! (Happy New Year!)*
*Assuming Google Translate is accurate.