HANOI, Dec. 25 (Xinhua) -- A white-bearded man with a big belly bursting out from a red outfit was riding an old motorbike along the packed Nguyen Trai Road in the Vietnamese capital city of Hanoi, carrying a red sack full of toys, school aids and garments.
Unbeknown to many, the delightful gifts contained in his large red scale, were mostly made in China.
After leaving a toy shop, the full-figured young man wearing a red coat with white fur collar and cuffs, white-fur-cuffed red trousers headed to an old apartment block in the Thanh Xuan district some 5 km away, but it took him more than half an hour to reach the destination because of increasingly heavy traffic as Christmas Eve approached.
Arriving at the apartment, the young man swiftly got off his bike and entered an apartment on the first floor. "Father Christmas is coming. Hurrah!" A cute girl with two pigtails exclaimed with sheer joy.
The young Santa Claus, opened his sack, pulled out a colorful box and gave it to the little girl. He told her: "Hi, Ngoc Chau. If you study harder, and obey your grandparents and parents, I will give you more gifts next time, sweetie."
While the girl hurriedly opened the box to find a lovely set of Elsa and Anna dolls, Santa Claus gave another colorful box to her cousin, a boy aged five, and asked him to eat more seafood, fruits and vegetables, drink more smoothies, and learn the alphabet in the coming summer, so that he can make a good start with his school life next year. The boy excitedly opened the box and quickly snatched a large sheet full of stickers and a small box of crayons.
Santa Claus knelt down and embraced the two kids, while posing for a photo shoot. Before leaving the flat with the sack still nearly full of toys and school aids, he received a bank note as a tip from the girl's mother.
And Santa Claus' journeys and actions were repeated a dozen more time in other flats or houses until the evening.
"I'm Santa Claus now. I go door-to-door, greet kids by saying their real names or nicknames, give them gifts and tell them to do some productive things requested by their parents in advance. My work starts today (Dec. 22) and will end on Monday evening," said the young man, whose real name is Nguyen Van Huy, a second-year student at the Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities.
Although the work is short-lived, it gives him a wage large enough to cover all his tuition fees and daily expenses for several months. "Normally, professional delivery service providers offer me 20 percent of the total value of each Santa Claus-delivering-gifts-at-home order," Huy said, adding that he is also hired by toy and grocery shops.
To meet increasing demand for Santa Claus-delivering-gifts-at-home services, Thien Cam Investment Joint-stock Company in Hanoi recruited 10 more "Santa Claus" with preferences given to candidates who are chubby and good at driving motorbikes and finding locations in alley ways intertwined like spiders' webs.
"We are now offering Santa Claus-delivering-gifts-at-home services at charges of 70,000-180,000 Vietnamese dong (3-8 U.S. dollars) depending on distance and time," one of Thien Cam's staff called Van said, adding that if large families or schools with dozens of kids gather at one place, the charges are higher - between 250,000-500,000 Vietnamese dong (11-22 U.S. dollars). But Santa Claus will stay with them for a much longer period of time: singing, dancing, playing games, and taking group photos for 20-30 minutes.
Tran Binh Duong, director of the ANM Communications Company, owner of Kids' Paradise online supermarket, said the supermarket will offer free Santa Claus-giving-gifts-at-home service to buyers who spend at least 500,000 Vietnamese dong (some 22 U.S. dollars).
The same policy is applied by Tien Phong bookstore chain, Vietnam's leading book and stationery chain.
"If the bill is 500,000 Vietnamese dong (some 22 U.S. dollars) or more, our professional staff in standard Santa Claus outfits will deliver the goods to the buyer's house at a prearranged time," said Nguyen Thu Thuy, a shop assistant at Tien Phong bookstore, in Tay Son Street, Hanoi.
The best-selling items during Christmas this year are Santa hats, books, school aids and toys, she said, noting that most of the goods are made in China.
"I'm choosing a radio-controlled toy racing car worth 300,000 Vietnamese dong (13.3 U.S. dollars) for my nephew, and a big box of crayons worth 100,000 Vietnamese dong (4.4 U.S. dollars) for my niece. These Chinese products look very nice and are not very expensive," a shopper named Nguyen Van Quang, an employee of the Hanoi Post Office, said while standing in front of high racks full of Chinese toys and school aids in the Tien Phong bookstore.
The situation is similar in other bookstores and shops. The Dai Ly Do Choi shop on Thai Thinh Street, Hanoi, is packed full of Chinese toys.
"The number of our customers has increased 10 fold compared with our non-Christmas periods. Our best-selling toys are radio-controlled cars, helicopters, tanks and ships for boys, and Elsa and Anna dolls for girls," the shop's owner Vu Van Duy said.
"I'm a grandpa now, but I'm still impressed by radio-controlled toys. China is really an expert in making toys which are inexpensive but very modern," the middle-aged man said, while holding a toy tank, which can move, fire plastic bullets, discharge smoke and make noises like a real tank in the battlefield.
After handing over the tank at a price of 1.5 million Vietnamese dong (66.3 U.S. dollars) to a customer, Duy sold a radio-controlled toy submarine to another customer.
"It's winter now, so toy submarine sales are slow. But submarines will sell like hot cakes in summer, when kids can play with them joyfully in swimming pools," he smiled.
According to local experts, Vietnam is not a Christian country, but more and more residents are enjoying Christmas, mainly because of improved living standards.
Many Vietnamese people, especially youngsters, consider Christmas as being a good occasion for them to show their care and affection to their loved ones by hanging out and giving gifts to each other, the experts said, adding that many young couples even consider Christmas a kind of Valentine Day.
According to statistics from the Vietnamese government, as of 2014, there are 24 million people identified with one of the recognized organized religions in Vietnam, out of a population of 90 million. Among them, 11 million are Buddhists (12.2 percent), 6.2 million are Catholics (6.8 percent), 4.4 million are Caodaists (4.8 percent), 1.4 million are Protestants (1.6 percent), and 1.3 million are Hoahaoists (1.4 percent).