It was Christmas morning in Thailand and so cold I woke up dreaming I was back in Seattle. Over the past month or so, the country had been experiencing unusually low temperatures and all residents were reaching into their closets for long sleeve shirts and gloves. Except for the Thais of course, who are very thin skinned, and wear snow parkas year round regardless of the weather. I used to make fun of them…but not today.
I poked a cautious toe out from under the covers and quickly drew it back in. Eventually the desire for a hot cup of coffee overcame my reluctance and I got out of bed, oh so quickly donning my pants (I had slept in the rest of my clothes). I headed over to the small guest house café, a mere thirty feet away. There I was delighted to find the Thai cook and all her Thai assistants wearing Santa Claus hats. It was Christmas after all! I wasn’t fooled a bit by all those palm trees and Buddha statues. And look, just over there in the doorway… Christmas decorations! So what if it looks like it was assembled by a blind monk with dyslexia. It’s the spirit that counts right?!
Let’s face it folks, Christmas does not come naturally to Thai people.They try their very best as they do in all ways to please their guests, but it’s just not the same. First of all, Jesus ain’t the main man around these parts. It’s Buddha. So there’s that. And while you still hear relentless Christmas carols playing in the mall, the spiritual side of the holiday is pretty much absent. “Oh Holy Night” is strictly background music, especially to people who don’t speak English.
But the Thai people simply do not turn their back on an opportunity to celebrate. The fact that there are thousands of Westerners and ex-pats around is as good an excuse as any to eat, drink, and be merry.
They put up Yule displays and some of them are pretty comical. They often look like a parody of the real thing, although come to think of it, I’ve seen plenty of that back in the States.
The closer you get to the front lines of tourism, the more sophisticated Christmas becomes. At the nicer hotels and fancy shops, you can find some impressive set-ups, but even those fall short in light of the ever present Bling found year round in The Kingdom. Christmas barely makes a dent in the visual landscape.
Wherever you may be in the world, Merry Christmas!! In the words of Tiny Tim, “Bless us, every one.”
Postscript: I can’t believe it’s been eight years since I wrote this! I stand by every word.