|A deer occasion: People chose Christmas gifts at a shop on Hai Ba Trung Street in HCM City's District 1. — VNA/VNS Phuong Vy
by Le Huong & Thu Anh
As chilly gusts of wind overwhelm the north of the country, people are preparing for the festive season.
Lights appear on fake pine trees at offices, hotels and restaurants while Christmas melodies fill the air at cafes on every street corner.
The largest-ever Christmas festive nights at Ha Noi's West Lake Waterpark on December 23 and 24 promise to host up to 40,000 people. The night will contain various "surprising factors", according to the waterpark and Heartlink JSC, which co-organised the event.
Images of a white park and snowy road will be displayed and family members can try out Christmas-themed games, in addition to hitting the dance floor with hundreds of male and female Santas. A photo contest titled "Impressive Noel Moments" will select the Top 10 Christmas Beauties, Top 10 Christmas Moments and Top 10 Christmas Faces.
In HCM City, cultural houses around the city have prepared a dazzling array of plays, concerts, art exhibitions, fashion shows, circuses and puppet shows.
The Youth Cultural House will host a writing contest called Best Wishes on Christmas Eve, encouraging young participants to write best wishes to their family, teachers and friends.
Dam Sen and Suoi Tien, two of the city's biggest parks, are among the many offices and organisations promoting the holiday spirit through entertainment and charity programmes. Children from local shelters have been invited to enjoy free music, dance, comedy, circus and puppet performances during the festive week, where they will receive candies and toys.
As in previous years, the Society Services Centre for Young People sent its volunteers to spread Christmas cheer among the disadvantaged. Hundreds of volunteers in Santa Claus's traditional costume are visiting poor households in rural districts, offering children toys and gifts donated by sponsors.
"We want all poor children to meet Santa and receive Christmas gifts. We hope people will donate more gifts and share the love," said Tran Thanh Binh, a volunteer at the centre.
This week, seven-year-old Tran Thai An and her friends, who live in a small alley in Thu Duc District, saw a plump man in a red costume and began screaming: "Hello, Mr Noel!"
Thao and her friends were overjoyed to receive toys from Santa Claus, played by Binh, and had a lot of fun eating and singing loudly.
"Christmas was nothing for me. But it has changed," said An with tears in her eyes.
At a gala event called Lung Linh Sai Gon (Dazzling Sai Gon) at Queen Hall on Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, District 4, dozens of pop stars and theatre artists will entertain the audience from an imposing stage with spectacular light and sound effects.
Extracts from musical plays like Romeo and Juliet will be staged by artists from the HCM City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera at the event, which will take place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, private filmmakers are hoping for more than decent box office returns after making big investments.
Entertainment company WePro's comedy Chang Trai Nam Ay (Man in the Past) features young pop star Son Tung M-TP and Korean actress Hari Won, who sing, dance and perform kung-fu moves.
"It's the first time that WePro has released a film for Christmas. We have high hopes that ticket sales will shoot up for the holiday," said director Nguyen Quang Huy, owner of WePro.
WePro's biggest competitor, Galaxy, released its latest production, De Hoi Tinh (Hoi's Life), last week.
For those who just want to soak up the atmosphere, the decorated streets downtown glitter with colourful lights and flowers and are perfect for walking. On Pham Ngoc Thach Street, open-air festivals featuring events like art exhibitions, fashion shows and concerts will take place this week for those who want to amble and enjoy the outdoors.
More than 10,000 young people are expected to attend the festive activities.
Special Christmas trees
While beautiful trees illuminate trading centres, Ecopark Living Quarter in the north of Ha Noi features a unique Christmas tree made of 5,000 old plastic bottles.
Children living in the quarter have been encouraged to gather old bottles for the past half-month to set up a 10m-tall tree on a bamboo frame, with the bottles forming the branches of the tree.
"Our Christmas tree is not only eye-catching but also sends a special message," said Bui Mai Thuy, who initiated the tree project. "Through this very simple activity, we teach our children to save waste objects and enhance their love for nature and awareness of protecting and respecting the environment."
"Such a Christmas tree is suitable to Ecopark urban zone, as the zone residents prefer a green and environmentally-friendly life," said Nguyen Thang, who is mainly responsible for setting up the tree.
Meanwhile, Huynh Phuong Do, owner of a handicraft shop in the central city of Hoi An, is decorating his shop with a 3.5m-tall Christmas tree featuring 200 smiling faces carved from bamboo roots.
Special TV show
A three-hour music show on VTV1 will feature 40 songs from domestic and foreign movies performed by Vietnamese pop singers. The show, which will air at 8pm on January 1, will be introduced by noted model Thuy Hanh and journalist Long Vu.
US-based diva Ha Tran will perform Loi Ru Cho Con (Lullaby for Baby) from the movie Cua De Danh (Children) while diva Thanh Lam will sing Hoa Sua (Milk Flower) from Ha Noi Mua Chim Lam To (Ha Noi in Season of Birds Building Nests).
Other foreign songs from movies like Bailamos, Jai Ho, Mamma Mia, Hard to Say I'm Sorry, All That Jazz and Funny Honey will also be performed by Duc Tuan, Doan Trang, Phuong Vy, Thao Trang and Ho Ngoc Ha.
According to director Pham Hoang Nam, it took three days for the team of 100 technicians, cameramen, musicians, singers and dancers to record the show.
"It will be a big feast for audiences with both good scenes and music," he said.
Highlands city ends
The central city of Da Lat is celebrating the new year and completing the National Tourism Year with a series of events from December 23-27.
These include a flower exhibition, embroidery weaving performance, show of traditional ethnic minority costumes and tea night. Various tours offer visitors the experience of spending the night in tents and bamboo treehouses.
Lam Dong Tea Week features a tea fair promoting local tea brands and guiding interested visitors to local tea fields. A tea leaf picking contest will challenge the skills of local farmers, who can also attend a workshop on developing sustainable tea. With a total area of 22,000ha, Lam Dong harvests 210,000 tonnes of tea every year. Tea production and export is a key economic sector in the locality.
Throughout the year, as many as 40 events have been organised in the four Central Highlands provinces of Dac Lac, Dac Nong, Gia Lai and Kon Tum. — VNS