If you’re making the most of the statutory holidays, your travels may well place you in Hoi An for Christmas. Things are celebrated a little differently here, but the festive season is still alive and well, just in a slightly different format. Remember you’re in the tropics now, so a white Christmas is definitely out of the question You’ll be hard-pushed to find a chimney here either—but Santa has his ways of getting to Hoi An.
This tourist town still embraces the Christmas season, and you’ll be swept up along with the residents here into a different Christmas experience—one that you’re unlikely to forget
Hidden gives you an insider’s guide on what to expect when spending Christmas in Hoi An—what do do, where to go, and more. We also explain a little further how Christmas is celebrated in this part of Vietnam.
The Christmas Holidays in Hoi An
Vietnam is predominantly Buddhist with only 8% out of 90 million Vietnamese identifying themselves as Christians. Christmas is understandably then, not the biggest celebration on the Vietnamese calendar. The highlight of the Vietnamese year is, in fact, Tet, the Lunar New Year celebration in Vietnam, coinciding with the Chinese New Year. Tet is colourful and fun, but the whole country is on the move as everyone travels back to their hometown to be with their family. During Tet, many businesses are closed, and there are altered business hours, staff shortages and a slight sense of disarray, as regular working patterns are given away in favour of celebrating with one’s friends and family. It’s very similar to what happens over the Christmas and New Year periods in the West. This can make travelling during Tet somewhat challenging for tourists.
Hoi An is a tourist town, so it is less affected than other areas, but you still need to be prepared for some disruption if you choose to travel during this time. In particular, travel during Tet can be expensive due to the high demand for seats, and buses and trains will be booked out with Vietnamese travelling back to their hometowns.
What this does mean is that over the Christmas period in Hoi An, it’s pretty much “business as usual.” There are no closures or statutory holidays during this time for the Vietnamese, and therefore your travels will be uninterrupted, albeit infused with touches of tinsel!
What does Christmas in Hoi An look like?
There’s no doubt you will still know it’s Christmas time when you visit Hoi An. The many hotels in the area embrace the festive spirit with Christmas markets, decorations, and other promotional Christmas activities and specials. Read on where to stay in Hoi An and hotels in Old Town for more information on accommodation during this time.
Hidden Hint: Once you’ve chosen your ideal spot, we advise that you secure it as soon as possible as this is a popular Western holiday time.
Many of the small stores in the Old Town swap out their regular fare for garlands, Santa suits, wreaths, reindeer antlers, and all things Christmassy. It’s easy to find things to take back and decorate your hotel room with, or even trinket ornaments to buy as keepsakes for future Christmases back home. It’s also a great time to shop for those late Christmas presents. Check out our souvenir shopping guide for some unique pieces to bring back home.
The main difference of how Christmas is celebrated here compared to in the West is that here, Christmas Eve, instead of Christmas Day, is the main event. Many family meals are held on this day and hotels and restaurants around Hoi An offer special Christmas menus and banquets. You’ll even find réveillon (chocolate log cake) in many restaurants—a remnant of the French influence here. Many of the town’s bars will have Christmas Eve themed drinks and celebrations as the Old Town and its surrounding streets come alive with Christmas Eve revellers. The beach is lively, too, during this time, with many bars holding festive beach parties
Hidden Hint: Christmas Eve can be very busy on the streets of Hoi An as many of the youth will ride around on their motorbikes to different celebrations or to check out the lanterns, lights, and various activities. If you stick to the pedestrian zones of the Old Town, you’ll be able to avoid most of this.
Christmas mass is celebrated at the newly renovated Hoi An Cathedral on the corner of Ly Thuong Kiet Street and Nguyen Truong Street, which is about a 10-minute walk from the centre of town. The Cathedral itself has stunning architecture, and the religious statues in the surrounding grounds outside are beautiful. The Cathedral is steeped in history as it was, in fact, one of the first places that missionaries chose to stay on their arrival in Vietnam. It has been rebuilt several times and holds the graves of the missionaries and church leaders buried in its grounds.
There is a Catholic Christmas mass service on both Christmas Eve at 7:30 pm and Christmas Day in Vietnamese at 6 am and in English at 4 pm. The Cathedral has a nativity scene complete with a Christmas play that many Vietnamese and tourists flock to see on Christmas Eve. On this night, it is very busy, and the church is packed, so ensure you come early if you’d like to partake in the service. It is quite common for crowds to spill out of the church doors and families gather to listen to the choir singing in the church grounds. You will be made most welcome here, though, as the Vietnamese Catholic community are very open to visitors, and you’ll be treated like a long lost friend.
Hidden Hint: Services are held in Vietnamese with a Christmas Day mass in English at 4 pm. If the only time you can go is a Vietnamese service, it’s good to know that the masses contain a lot of singing, so it is quite easy to be immersed in the experience without knowing the language.
It’s business as usual on Christmas Day—yes, the shops are all open, so you can shop for your last minute Christmas presents. In fact, for many local businesses here, it’s one of their biggest retail days.
Weather in Hoi An on Christmas
Now, while we’ve said there won’t be snow, be prepared that It is colder and wetter during December—but don’t let this dampen your spirits. Hotels, bars, and restaurants all have plenty of activities on offer to help you forget about the weather if it is unpleasant. Many past Christmases here have been celebrated on the sands of nearby An Bang beach. Swimming at this time would be solely for the very brave, though! If you’d like to know more about the weather during this time we’ve dedicated an entire article to it here.
For those craving a Western fix with a traditional Christmas dinner don’t worry, the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa has got you covered. Famous in Hoi An for nearly 20 years for its design, ambience, and heavenly beachfront swimming pool, this resort is laid out as a replica of a traditional fishing village with small streets, water ponds, and village houses. At Christmas time they don’t disappoint. The resort is decorated beautifully complete with a giant Christmas tree. Their colonial-style restaurant with its antique wooden cabinets and classic fans make it the perfect festive dining experience. The presentation of their food is faultless, as are their efficient staff, plus you can look out to the sea while dining on some amazing festive fare.
The main event is held on Christmas Eve where they host a large “Christmas Eve Gala Dinner” complete with Christmas delights, cocktails, free flow wine, bubbles, beer and soft drink, the big man himself Santa drops in with presents, there are beautiful decorations, carol singing, lion dancing, and even a bonfire! The Christmas Eve menu is jaw-dropping—we’re talking oysters, crab, foie gras, scallops, salmon, duck, ham, and turkey for mains—then you have to shuffle around to make room for the plethora of desserts including the aforementioned Christmas log cake, tiramisu, apple pie… the list goes on. The gala dinner starts at 4 pm with Santa’s arrival and ends with a bonfire near the pool around 9:30 pm. For the full Christmas menu and programme, check out their website.
For those of you that want to celebrate on Christmas Day, the Victoria does it all again on the 25th December with an international standard Christmas Day Brunch. Running from noon to 3 pm, Santa comes back with more presents for kids, the children of Victoria’s staff will perform for you, and there’s a supervised kid’s club as well. You also get to devour Christmas fare along with free-flowing drinks.
Christmas Eve Gala Dinner
Price: 1,725,000 VND (75 USD) – 20% discount for children aged 5 to 11-years-old (Children under 5 are free)
Christmas Day Brunch
Price: 890,000 ++VND (39 USD) with free flow of wine; 690,000++ VND (30 USD) with free flow of beer and soft drinks – 20% discount for children aged 5 to 11-years-old (Children under 5 are free)
Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa
Address: Au Co, Bien Cua Dai
Phone: +84 (28) 6290 9720 or toll-free: 1800 599 955
Another option for celebrating Christmas in the Old Town with a traditional feast is to join the Anantara Hoi An Resorts’ Christmas Day Brunch.This year, it’s going to be held at The Art Space, a new art and dining concept area of the hotel. Here, you can dine in a festive, boutique atmosphere served by the Anantara’s superb staff. There’s an expansive buffet with late breakfast temptations, traditional Christmas bites, and exquisite flavours from around the world. Santa will be there with his sack of goodies for the children, while adults will be equally delighted by the selection of free flow bubbles, wine and beer. The Christmas Brunch runs from noon until 3 pm, all set in a festive environment complete with sing-along Christmas tunes.
Christmas Day Brunch
Price: 1,380,000 ++VND ($60USD) with free flow soft drinks, beer, and sparkling, red and white wines – 50% discount for children 9 to 16-years-old (Children 8 and under are free)
Address: 1 Pham Hong Thai Street
Phone: +84 (0) 235 391 4555
Fancy spending Christmas day partying on the beach? Vietnam Backpackers has got your Christmas covered. They have 12 days of festive Christmas events, both at the hostel and at Kahuna’s Hoi An Beach Club, leading up to the main event on Christmas Day. Christmas Day itself starts with a sit down three-course meal and four hours of free flow sangria, vodka, rum, and beer. Festivities run all day, celebrating “Christmas on the Beach,” and there’s a “Festive Pool Party” with DJs to take you through to the evening. They’re responsible hosts, too, offering a free shuttle bus to and from Kahuna’s for the event.
A three-course Christmas dinner, including free flow sangria, vodka, rum, and beer, will cost you just 600,000 VND (26 USD). Bookings best made online through their website.
For a more family-friendly beach option, why not join the Salt Pub family this Christmas at Salt Pub and Restaurant? They promise to show you a good time whether you’ve been naughty or nice! Salt Pub is one of the best-thought-out venues along the beach—they have a large garden with a play area for the kids and two decking areas which are perfect places to relax and enjoy Christmas. You’ll get a Christmas welcome drink, a full three-course Christmas meal with all the trimmings—yes, we’re talking turkey, lamb, roast potatoes, and Christmas cake among many other offerings—accompanied by free flow local beer, as well as house red and white wine, from 12 to 3 pm. Tickets cost 900,000 VND (39 USD) and can be secured with a 200,000 VND (8.70) per person deposit. Call or contact them via Facebook to book.
Hidden Hint: Book as soon as you’ve made your decision on where to spend Christmas. These events are increasing in popularity each year.
Christmas in Hoi An is not going to be like Christmas in the West. That’s not to say one is better than the other—it’s just different. What Hoi An does offer during this time is the all-around good feeling about time with family, great food and the bonus that you’re on holiday, too —that’s always a plus.
A significant lure to Hoi An during Christmas time is its simplicity. Don’t underestimate how enjoyable a Christmas day without all the stressful build up can be. You can step back and get someone else to cook for you here – sit down and relax without putting your back out over the Christmas turkey! Imagine a Christmas where you can enjoy each other’s company without someone sweating over the stove and worrying for weeks in advance about menus and gifts. Indeed, the Vietnamese have got it sussed, back to basics about what Christmas should be all about—time spent with family and friends without all the commercial hype.
Every year though, Christmas gets bigger here as tourist levels continue to rise and the Vietnamese further embrace Western festivals. The Vietnamese do it in such a colourful, fun, all-encompassing way that however you choose to celebrate Christmas, it’s likely not going to be one you’ll quickly forget.