My children were with me for two Christmases in Vietnam, thanks to the two accompanied (family) tours I had there. Their mother and I went out of our way to decorate and celebrate so that they wouldn’t feel that Christmas had lost its meaning in a foreign land with sunny weather in the 70s and 80s rather than snow. We were marginally successful.
The most memorable Christmas in Vietnam for me was the last one, in 1974. In its foolishness, the U.S. government declared the war over with the signing of the peace accords of 1973. We had a big Christmas tree—never mind that it wasn’t the right kind of pine. The house was dripping with decorations. I read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the children on Christmas eve. We had all the men from the office who were there alone in for Christmas dinner. But under the veneer of celebration loomed the knowledge that the North Vietnamese grew ever closer. I already knew that the country would fall within months and was quietly arranging for my family to be evacuated before the North Vietnamese seized Saigon.
And yet, for all that, Christmas remained a magical time. I know that there is nothing inherent in the calendar to make the 25th of December the most special day of the year. I know that the magic comes from the human heart.
May that magic always prevail.