Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Well, shit. I'm late again. The Vietnamese started putting up the Holiday decorations weeks ago. Never mind that there won't be any snow or that we won't even feel a smidgen's worth of cold. They've broken out the fiberglass reindeer and beat the pants off American retailers at getting this season off to an ice-sicley start. Remember, there's no such thing as Thanksgiving in a tropical climate because harvest season basically lasts all year, so there's no real start point for what will end up being a two month holiday. What happens essentially, is that somewhere in late November the decorations start going up and they'll stay up throughout the Lunar New Year, known as Tet in Vietnam, with minor changes and Santas replaced by Buddhas once Christmas is over. And there's little distinction between the Western New Year and the Lunar one. To the Viets, it's just an excuse to party and drive their kids around in Holiday garb on their motorbikes for months.
To aid in introducing this auspicious event, I've recruited my alter-ego, CitizenMekong, to MC the festivities for you this year. The video below gives you a pretty good capsule synopsis of what goes on around here - and don't complain about the picture or sound quality either. You must understand that CitizenMekong is a capitalist reporter working undercover in a Communist country and so must execute his reports via "spy-cam", an ultra-secret device hidden in an ordinary Motorola cel-phone. Pretty damn amazing, and a tribute to technology if you ask me.
Probably, now, having viewed the video, you'll have noticed that that there was virtually no mention of the birth of Jesus or much of a Christian theme to anything - and that's simply because, in Vietnam, Christmas has nothing to do with any sort of "Christ" or "Christ-child" or any of that secular rubbish. Here, it's been boiled down to strictly the commercial free-for-all the retail community has always wanted it to be - and it fits seamlessly into the coming Lunar New Year celebrations, if only by virtue of costume changes and a distinct slow-down in all sorts of work, government and school practices for the duration of a roughly two month season. By the time the Viets wake up from this Joyeux Noël cum Tet/Lunar hangover, all us bored foreigners will so chirping looney to get back to work that they'll be able to get us on the cheap through the beginning of March!