Viet Nam News
To celebrate the season, shopping centres are luring customers with chubby Santas and big discounts, live concerts are featuring big names in pop and rap music, and charities are hosting free shows for kids and rural residents.
By Thu Anh
The spirit of the holiday season has definitely hit downtown HCM City in a big way. At night, and particularly on the weekends, shoppers can be seen rushing on colourfully lit streets, buying gifts for friends, relatives and co-workers, and posing for Facebook photos.
The buzz of activity is most notable at local shopping malls and entertainment centres, while concerts, plays and new music albums are also attracting more customers eager to take part in the seasonal cheer.
Indeed, there’s something for everyone. Traditional music concerts? Check. Rappers and DJs who specialise in electronic music? Check. Special gifts and discounts on consumer goods, food and entertainment? Of course.
Vincom, Diamond and Takashimaya department stores are all offering sales of up to 50 per cent on famous domestic and foreign brand names. They’re also encouraging people to buy toys and other gifts to donate to disadvantaged children who stay at city shelters and open houses.
Shops featuring Christmas ornaments, gifts, cakes and candies are all attracting customers, but the special items this year are real Christmas trees imported from the US. A 3.8 metre high tree sells for VNĐ20 million (US$900).
“I imported 200 Nordmann fir and Nobel fir trees from Oregon. Most of them were bought by foreign companies and agencies. Some wealthy families also placed orders,” said Diệp Nguyễn, general director of a home and decoration company in District 2.
For young people with tight budgets, a beautiful card or small gift costs only VNĐ20,000 ($0.9).
“We love shopping and posing for photos to share on Facebook,” said Ngô Quỳnh Trang, a first-year student at the HCM City University of Law, who was visiting a shop on Hai Bà Trưng Street. “This year, I bought a handmade card and new album of Christmas songs to give to my boyfriend.”
New albums have been released by pop stars and musicians to celebrate the spirit of the season.
Seasonal shopping: Shopping malls and entertainment centres in HCM City have been increasingly busy as customers look for Christmas and New Year’s gifts. VNS Photo Anh Thư
Pop star Bùi Anh Tuấn and colleague Phạm Toàn Thắng issued Mùa Đông Tình Yêu (Love in Winter), while Việt Nam Idol 2007 winner Phương Vy released Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend which features songs about love and women.
Several albums with sweet melodies in English and Vietnamese, performed by Đàm Vĩnh Hưng, Hiền Thục, Đông Nhi and Bảo Thi, are also guaranteed to be popular with holiday revellers.
"We hope our energy and passion that we invested in these special products will cheer up our fans," said Tuấn, who in 2012 placed in the top 8 of The Voice of Việt Nam contest, a Vietnamese version of the American TV singing contest The Voice.
Galas, concerts and plays
The city is also preparing to greet the New Year with plays, concerts, art exhibitions, fashion shows, circus performances, and puppet and comedy shows.
At a gala event at the Military Zone 7 Stadium in Tân Bình District, Michael Learns to Rock, a famous boy band in the 1990s, is expected to entertain more than 15,000 people.
The three-member band from Denmark will perform its new Extended Play with Love, released in May to honour the band’s 25th anniversary celebration, at the Sky Connection Music Festival on December 21 at 8pm.
Favourite hits like Sleeping Child, 25 Minutes, That’s Why and Take Me to Your Heart will be featured at the concert, which will include South Korean girl group Wonder Girls, one of Asia’s most popular pop bands.
The band’s four members will perform Why So Lonely, To the Beautiful You and Sweet & Easy from their fourth album Why So Lonely, released in July featuring reggae-pop dance music.
Take you pick: Shops selling Christmas ornaments, gifts, cakes and candies are popular among city residents. VNS Photo Anh Thư
Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Sơn Tùng M-TP will also perform at the concert.
Another music event, to be held at the Sài Gòn Exhibition and Convention Centre in District 7, will feature the world’s top 10 foreign DJs including Afrojack, Martin Garrix, Hard Well, Like Mike and Dimitri Vegas, who will show off their electronic music mixing skills.
The Tâm Điểm Ánh Nhìn (Starlight) show, to include Vietnamese pop star Tóc Tiên and rappers Suboi and Hoàng Touliver, will begin at 9pm on Sunday (December 18). It is expected to attract 20,000 people.
Dozens of fashion models, pop stars and actors will entertain the audience on an imposing stage with spectacular light and sound effects on Christmas Eve at the Youth Cultural House in District 1.
District 3’s Women’s Cultural House will also host a special concert, Best Wishes, on New Year’s Eve. Music and theatrical performances will be staged by talented amateurs who are members of the cultural house.
Đầm Sen Park in District 11 and Suối Tiên Park in District 9, two of the city’s biggest parks, are promoting the holiday spirit through entertainment programmes this year.
More than 7,000 children and young people are expected to attend Đầm Sen Park’s free variety programme of music, dance, comedy, circus and puppet shows, which begins this weekend and will run through January 1.
Suối Tiên Park will offer free tickets, candies and toys to disadvantaged children who live at shelters and open houses around the city.
For residents and visitors content to just walk the streets and soak up the atmosphere, the city government and its partners have put up thousands of coloured lights and lanterns along major streets, including Đồng Khởi, Phạm Ngọc Thạch and Lê Duẩn, as well as the Notre Dame Cathedral.
This weekend, open-air festivals featuring events like art exhibitions, puppet shows and concerts will be held on Nguyễn Huệ Pedestrian Street in District 1.
As in previous years, the Social Services Centre for Young People has sent volunteers to spread Christmas cheer among disadvantaged children.
Hundreds of volunteers in Santa Claus’s traditional red-and-white costume are also visiting children at shelters and open houses in rural districts, offering gifts donated by sponsors.
"We want Christmas to be about giving and making children happy. I love to hear ‘Hello! Mr Noel’ from everyone on the streets,” said Santa volunteer Phạm Minh Chánh, who began delivering gifts every night this week.
Pop stars: The South Korean girl group Wonder Girls, one of Asia’s most popular pop bands, will celebrate Christmas with a performance at the Sky Connection Music Festival in HCM City on December 21. Photo wondergirls.jype.com
Music, art performances
Drama and traditional art troupes are also reaching out to residents in every corner of the city, offering a variety of new, engaging shows during the season. They are focusing on rural audiences who have few entertainment choices.
“Our Christmas and New Year programmes began early this week, offering free music and song performances, theatre shows and traditional games for people in the city’s rural districts of Hóc Môn, Bình Chánh and Củ Chi,” said a representative of the HCM City Circus Troupe.
The troupe is well known to rural children and teenagers who eagerly await its traditional dance, puppet and animal shows.
“I’ve heard the puppet shows will be free at our district’s cultural house on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve,” said Trần Thị Thơm, a third-grade student from Bình Chánh District. “Gifts, toys and candies will also be delivered to poor kids. That’s amazing.”
For cải lương (southern reformed opera) fans, artists from the Trần Hữu Trang Theatre in District 1 will perform extracts from popular classical operas on the weekends.
Last week, young actors from the Thế Giới Trẻ (Youth World) Troupe from the HCM City University of Theatre and Cinematography began performing in their sound and light show held on a modern stage.
The troupe’s new plays features topics about love and family that urban residents face.
"It’s our tradition to also travel to rural areas because we want to create a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year for people who may not be able to enjoy the arts much during the year," said Ngọc Hùng, the troupe’s director. The shows are held for free.
Most of the musical and art performances have already begun and will continue at district cultural houses through January 1. — VNS