|Christmas cheer: The Thien Ngan theatre company hopes its comedy Em Hien Nhu Ma-So (Sister Act) will do well at the box office this festive season. — VNS Photos|
by Thu Anh
There is something for everyone. HCM City is preparing to greet Christmas and New Year with plays, concerts, art exhibitions, fashion shows, new album releases, circus shows, puppet shows, and comedy shows.
And if you are not in the mood for any of these activities, you can still walk around doing nothing, watching people, particularly children, gaze at the bedecked streets that glitter with colourful lights and flowers.
And if you want to do something meaningful, well, there is no time like now to bring some festive cheer into the lives of the underprivileged.
The HCM City Children's Cultural House and Youth Cultural House have prepared a dazzling array of activities including plays and concerts to charity tours to help residents celebrate the festive season with gusto.
Open-air festivals featuring events like art exhibitions and concerts opened this week at the two centres on Pham Ngoc Thach and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia streets.
The Children's Cultural House will host a painting contest called "The Best of The Wish on Christmas Eve", encouraging young participants to paint and write their best wishes to their family, teachers and friends.
During the night, theatre and music performances will be staged by the centre's members, who will show off their diverse talents.
At a gala event at the Youth Cultural House, dozens of fashion models, pop stars and comedians will entertain the audience from an imposing stage with spectacular light and sound effects.
Among other pieces, they will sing famous Christmas songs like Joy To The World, Silent Night and O Holy Night.
More than 7,000 children and young people are expected to attend the centre's festive activities.
The city government and its partners have worked to put up thousands of coloured lights and lanterns along major streets like Dong Khoi and Le Loi as well as monuments like the Notre Dame Cathedral.
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 this year.
The Dam Sen Park in District 11 will offer free tickets, candies and toys to disadvantaged children from shelters and open houses around the city.
At the Suoi Tien Park in District 9, children and their parents will enjoy for free a variety programme of music, dance, comedy, circus and puppet shows.
Top singers are celebrating the season with the release of new albums that they are confident will strike a chord with listeners.
"I hope the energy and passion that I have investged, as well as new things that I have included in my new album will surprise and please my fans," said pop star Phuong Thanh at her album's premiere last weekend.
After two years of dabbling in movies, Thanh has returned to music and is sanguine that her album, Nao Co Ai Biet (Who Will Know) – a CD of 11 songs written and produced by famous musician Duc Tri – will do well.
"It is the first time I am performing Tri's songs which have been sung many times by top singers. It is not an easy task. But I think I have done well," said Thanh.
Music lovers can do worse than stay at home with a loved one or close friends, listening to Tri's sweet melodies on Christmas Eve.
Younger singers like Duc Tuan, Thu Minh and Giang Hong Ngoc also worked hard on albums targeted for release during the Christmas season.
While Tuan's Bay Gio Bien Mua Dong (Now The Sea in Winter) features romantic tunes by veteran composer Duong Thu, Minh's Giac Quan Thu Sau (The Sixth Sense) is a CD of pop and dance music.
Ngoc's Co Nhung Giac Mo (Dreams) of eight ballads has left a strong impression on listeners. The album has been a noteworthy entry for the young singer into the music market.
After making big investments in producing movies for the season, private filmmakers are hoping for more than decent box office returns.
Thien Ngan's comedy Em Hien Nhu Ma-So (Sisters Act) features super fashion model Anh Thu and female rocker Siu Black, who bring to play their singing and dancing skills, not to mention some kung-fu moves.
"We have high hopes that ticket sales will shoot up in the coming days," said Phan To Hong Hai, director of the exhibition division at Thien Ngan (Galaxy) theatres.
He noted that it was the first time that Thien Ngan was releasing a film for the Christmas festival.
As in previous years, the Society Services Center for Young People has sent its volunteers to spread Christmas cheer among disadvantaged children in the city.
Hundreds of volunteers, in Santa Claus's traditional red-and-white costume, are visiting shelters and open houses in rural districts, offering children toys and gifts donated by sponsors.
"We want Christmas to be about giving and making all children happy," said Pham Thi Chinh, director of the centre.
Born into a poor family, Tran Thi Thao, who has a heart problem, cannot enjoy a Christmas party but she has imagined many things about Santa Claus. This week, the 11-year-old girl and her friends who live in a small alley in District 8 – sighted a plump man in a red costume and began screaming:"Hello! Mr Noel."
Thao and her friends were overjoyed to receive toys from the Santa Claus (played by a volunteer of Chinh's centre), and had a lot of fun, eating and singing loudly.
"Christmas was nothing for a poor kid like me. But it has changed," said Thao, tears in her eyes.
"I hope all poor children will meet the Santa and receive gifts at Christmas. I hope people will donate more and more and love and share," said Nguyen Thanh Binh, a volunteer Santa who has been travelling around the city. — VNS