On the Hanoi hunt for 2015’s most profound christmas decoration and an excursion to Ke Sat
Hanoi – as this 2013 image indicates – has just about reached decoration saturation point
Some larger places have outdone themselves in the WOW factor stakes and their strings of fairy lights use enough electricity per 24 hour period that an equal amount of money would keep scores of top of the mountain ethnic families in warm clothes and blankets for the coming cold months when chilly winds from China sweep in through chinks in their walls.
Of course a minority of Hanoi’s population (including a small minority of expats) celebrate what they perceive Xmas is all about
And the majority celebrates the red clad deity of Santa Claus / Father Christmas
Digressing to the provinces… Now if you are really into the Christmas thing-or, if like me you just like to be in the midst of theater of things – the best place to be on Christmas Eve is 40km east of town, just off the road to Hai Phong – in the streets of Ke Sat
In Ke Sat in the early days of French colonial rule, the invaders established a strategic base, half way between the port city and Hanoi
Naturally missionaries followed and a church was built to proclaim the faith and that church expanded in size until it is now one of the grandest in North Vietnam
Conversions followed and today the population of Ke Sat (about 6000) has a sizable Catholic congregation that each year devoutly celebrates the birth of a future refugee child to a family that had distinctly Middle Eastern features.
The devout and the secular get together on Christmas Eve for a celebration of the sacred with lights and decorations around the church and through the streets of the surrounding old town which is said to be more authentic, now, than old quarter Hanoi
The celebration has become so famous that hordes of people – both devout and secular – descend on the town from Hanoi to look at the light displays and (for the devout and curious) to attend a crowded Christmas mass
Now back to shoes and Santa
My hunters and collectors scoured the city, singing that evergreen Xmas song ‘WE WISH SHOE A MERRY CHRISTMAS’, seeking examples of the most appealing -though not appalling- Xmas decorations…
… and this year the winner is decidedly secular and commercial – commercial being one of the main joys and impetuses of the season.
It’s not one of the dazzling supa doopa varieties of Christmas cheerfulness, this one is simple and decidedly hand made out of found objects and can be found displayed on a sidewalk outside a discrete lingerie boutique on Phan Dinh Phung
WISHING YOUR SHOE (RIGHT OR LEFT) A VERY MERRY LEAD UP TO THE BIG DAY
|Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.|