12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: Family members dress as Santa; only children receive gifts for Vietnam’s ‘nonel’

Cultures around the world have special ways of celebrating the holiday  season. In the “12 Days of Christmas” series, sophomores Jack Christian and Allison Zhang interviewed students and teachers on their international Christmas experiences. This is the final installment of the series. 

The main thing that stands out about Christmas in Vietnam is that Christmas is not called Christmas!

Instead it is called nonel, which means Christmas in Vietnamese, according to sophomore George Nguyen, who lived in Hanoi for 14 years.

“We wouldn’t say ‘Merry Christmas’; we would say ‘Happy Nonel,’” Nguyen said.

Gift-giving is also handled differently.

Only small children receive gifts, usually toys, while adults don’t exchange gifts at all.

“I would receive maybe a gift from my parents only,” Nguyen said. “Most teenagers don’t really care about receiving gifts anyway.”

But Santa still comes to Vietnam. Every year a family member dresses up as Santa to surprise the little kids.

“They never even notice that it’s a family member,” Nguyen said. “I always thought it was Santa all the way up until I was 10, when I noticed that it was one of my uncles!”

Even though Christmas is celebrated in Vietnam, it is not a religious holiday.

“We don’t go to church,” Nguyen said. “It is just about celebrating the year with your family.”

By Jack Christian

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