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Published: December 30th 2009
Joe and I wanted to send everyone a quick note of cheer and warm wishes for the holiday season. It’s somewhat of a bittersweet Christmas for us as we miss our friends, family, and holiday traditions. At the same time, it’s fascinating to see how an Asian country incorporates Christmas and New Years into its culture and quite touching to celebrate hand-in-hand with our new Vietnamese friends.
Much to our surprise, the Vietnamese LOVE Christmas. They decorate like crazy and celebrate with abandon! Hanoi is full of lights, fake snow, Christmas trees, and Santa figures. The kids know all the classic Christmas songs and get placed on Santa’s lap for that perfect Christmas-card picture just like kids in the western world. People have Christmas parties and send Christmas greetings to each other (at least we’ve received many Christmas e-mails and e-cards). On Christmas Eve, there was a huge festival in the local Cathedral and masses of people partying in the street. However, as far as we can tell, the holiday is largely a secular one. Except for the minority of Catholics in the country, it appears that most of the Christmas celebrations here are devoid of any religious
End of the year luncheon at Apollo
Nancy poses with the lovely ladies of the Apollo cleaning staff!
or spiritual component. It’s sort of like all of the commercialism you hate about Christmas in the U.S. without any of the redeeming spiritual features. Oddly enough, it works because there’s no hypocrisy or contradictions. To us, it seemed like one big party. It didnt even appear that gift giving was very prominent.
We’ve been lucky to enjoy several Christmas celebrations in the city and at our school. In the city, we finally made it to the spectacular Hanoi Opera House for a delightful Christmas concert performed by the Vietnamese National Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with a special guest conductor and pianist from Japan. The music was divine and the venue was stunning--- old French architecture and furnishings. It really put us in the Christmas spirit.
The celebrations at our school started with an end-of-the-year luncheon with loads of great Vietnamese food and laughs with our colleagues. In addition, Apollo threw a grand Christmas party at a magnificent, high-end venue complete with a free-flowing supply of food, beer and wine. (It was the first time I ate snails --- very cool!!). There were lots of games and home-spun entertainment, including a “dance fashion show”
End of the year luncheon at Apollo
Joe poses with our beloved Minh - the manager of the resource room at Apollo without whom we'd be forever without paper, copy machines, pens, etc, etc!
that I was invited to perform in. It was quite a spectacle, if you can imagine me in a homemade Vietnamese princess costume, dancing and modeling with my two young Vietnamese colleagues in front of 100 people!!!! As you know, it’s not my personality to do that sort of thing but for some reason I was happy to do it when invited. There’s something about being in another country that helps to melt away your normal inhibitions. Well, we had a truly magnificent evening along side our Vietnamese friends and colleagues! I know its sounds totally corny but it REALLY felt just like that Michael Jackson song… We are the world!!! I hummed that tune for days after the party with a big smile on my face, warmth in my heart, and an overwhelming sense of optimism about this world coming together in peace. Isn’t that what Christmas is supposed to be about anyway????
Best wishes to everyone. See you in 2010!! Love, Nancy and Joe
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