I’m definitely not what you’d call a religious bloke, not in the slightest, but I must admit I always find myself magnetically drawn towards places of worship. Be it a pagoda, temple, mosque or church there is a sense warmth and love I feel in any prayer house and whilst I personally have no devotion to any god, it’d be stubborn of me to deny that I reap benefits from those who do.
Christmas time in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is a special time of year where the city’s countless churches really put on a show. Literally. They actually do put on a stageshow. Come Christmas Eve, even the smallest church has an epic Broadway-shaming stage performance. Mind you, if it wants to outshine the blinding lights and Christmas caves outside, it’s going to wanna be pretty damn special!
The feeling of community, togetherness and love is no stronger in Saigon than when you head to a church on Christmas Eve and it’s times of the year like that remind me that kids are the number one priority in Vietnam, easily, and the night is unofficially dedicated to them. Fake snow and bubbles blow down off steeples and tumble over the grandiose front steps while the odd helium-filled balloon can be seen floating upwards to it’s freedom – after those small and sweaty hands loosened their grip.
Entire families wander the church grounds eating and drinking between the chatting and playing games before Mass. Hundreds of mums and dads, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins converge on every local house of god, occasionally with grandparents in tow.
The younger ones are always pressured by their elders to come speak to me and show of their English. “How are you?” I’ll often be asked and I must always reply with the default standard and very mundane: “I’m fine thank you, and you?”.
Below is a slideshow of some of my favourite photos from a night church hopping in Saigon’s Go Vap District – one of the city’s dominant catholic areas.