News - December 25, 2018 | 11:15 am GMT+7

Major Vietnamese cities overrun by holiday crowds on Christmas Eve

Parishioners and holiday-goers flooded downtown streets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on Monday.

Hanoi

In Hanoi, Catholics gathered at the St. Joseph Cathedral to attend the church service to mark the birth of Jesus.

People walk around the main cathedral of the Archdiocese in Hanoi to see photo exhibition on Holy Mary, Mother of Jesus. The cathedral is strikingly beautiful at this time of the year with elaborate Christmas decorations that attracting thousands of people, particularly in the night.

Not everyone who go out for Christmas in Hanoi understand the origin of the holiday. Many said they are not Christian, they just want to part of the atmosphere.

A dance performance by little girls started at 9 p.m. on December 24 outside the St. Joseph’s Cathedral, also known as the Big Church.

A group of French parishioners attend mass at the Hanoi's St. Joseph Cathedral.

Saigon

Nguyen Ke Khanh in HCMC's Binh Tan District took his family to the downtown area, a 45-minute drive from his house, to enjoy the bustling atmosphere of Christmas Eve. 

The Bui Vien pedestrian street in the backpacker precincts, a popular hangout for Westerners, was one of the most crowded places in Saigon during Christmas.

Father Nguyen Chi Linh, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, said that Christmas in Vietnam is no longer just a religious event but has become the holiday of the large public. "The biggest message of Christmas is peace, and when people celebrate Christmas, they are willing to let go of conflicts."

A boy with a Christmas hat looks at the crowd around him, sitting on his father's shoulders on Bui Vien Street.

A dinosaur joins the parade in Bui Vien.

A man dressed as Santa Claus presents balloons to kids in front of Saigon’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in District 1.

Although the 138-year-old cathedral is under construction for restoration work, which is scheduled to extend until 2023 instead of next year as planned earlier, it has been decorated for the occasion and continues to draw the crowds. 

The "Pink Church" Tan Dinh, District 3, the second largest church in Saigon after the Notre Dame Cathedral, was crowded on Christmas Eve.

Government leaders also made Christmas part of their agenda. The city's Party chief Nguyen Thien Nhan and the country's top legislator Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan paid visits to Christian leaders in HCMC during the season.

A family poses for a picture from Xmas props at a shopping center in District 1.

Huu Khoa, Thanh Nguyen, Giang Huy