Places - December 24, 2018 | 03:05 am PT

Saigon's veins sparkle with Christmas magic

On Christmas Eve, Saigon's alleys are festooned with colorful lights to commemorate the birth of Jesus.

Alleys are the veins of urban life in most cities, and Saigon is no exception.

They are places where close-knit bonds bind neighborhoods; places that are home to the best street food; places that hide the best cafes; and places that generate vibrant street art.

And beyond the mainstream glitter of shopping malls and imposing churches, the festivity of a Christmas season seeps into the alleys of "Christian hamlets", imparting a glow all their own. 

Video by Que Chi

As the country’s biggest archdiocese, Ho Chi Minh City is home to nearly 700,000 Christians. And the community goes to town to ensure that this time of the year remains magical and sparkling.

A man and his grandchild walk on Alley 58, Au Co Street, Tan Binh District. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

Two women in white tunics walk home after attending the church service in an alley of Tran Van Hoang Street, Tan Binh District. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

The night train adds its headlights to an illuminated pathway in Phu Nhuan District. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

Parishioners in Tan Binh District have lit up their alley in green with hundreds of meters of flickering lights. Photo by Dat Tran

Alley 479 in Nguyen Kiem Street is dyed pink for Christmas. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

Two men hang up holiday lights in an alley of Le Duc Tho Street, Go Vap District. The light shows and decorations in the neighborhood bring the community together, with each house chipping in VND200,000 ($8.58) and lending helping hands, said a parishioner. Photo by Dat Tran

"Every year our family sets up a cave (nativity scene) to decorate the front of the house," said Tran Vu, a resident in a Nguyen Kiem Street's alley. "It has become a tradition for over 40 years, starting with my grandpa, then my dad and now me." Photo by Thanh Nguyen

A fullly installed grotto in an alleyway in Go Vap District. Photo by Dat Tran

Kids marvelled at a large Santa Claus and a fake Christmas pine tree  in Alley 78, Chan Hung Street, Tan Binh District. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

Another elaborate nativity scene shines next to an English evening class in Alley 122, Do Tan Phong Street, Phu Nhuan District. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

An ice-cream vendor takes a break in an alley in the Phat Diem Church parish. Photo by Thanh Nguyen

Thanh Nguyen, Dat Tran, Que Chi, Nhung Nguyen