I always find myself magnetically drawn towards churches this time of year. There is a sense warmth and love in any prayer house and whilst I personally have no devotion to God it is sometimes enjoyable to be around those who do – particularly at Christmas!
Christmas time in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is a special time of year when the city’s countless churches really put on a show. Literally. Come Christmas Eve even the smallest church will put on their own Broadway-shaming stage shows and singing performances. It’s going to have to be darn good though if it wants to outshine the blinding lights and Christmas caves!
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 clearly the number one priority in Vietnam. The night is unofficially dedicated to them. Fake snow and bubbles blow down off steeples and tumble over the grandiose front steps. Flashing toys and Christmas carols attempt to compete with to church’s #1 singers and there is always the the odd helium-filled balloon floating upwards to it’s freedom, having slipped out from those small sweaty hands.
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.