T’is the season to be jolly…the Thai people are very good at having a party and that is largely what Christmas seems to mean over here in Thailand. Many Thai families will have a party on Christmas day, and some will even swap presents but it doesn’t have the same significance as New Year, or Song Kran (April) for example. And as a westerner, it feels rather ridiculous to expect a man in a wooly hat and coat to come down a chimney in a land baking sun, tin shacks and wooden huts.
Of course, you would never expect a mainly Buddhist society to celebrate a Christian festival in the same way. But the fact that they embrace it at all shows the tolerance and pragmatism of the Thai people. Hollywood has spread the yuletide word through south east Asia and so a lot of the commercial trapping is the same. There are lights in the shop windows and Bing Crosby sings about White Christmas in the shopping arcades.
What’s missing in the soul, or the meaning of Christmas. Whether you celebrate the Christian message of Jesus’s birth, or enjoy the holidays as a special family time, there is an atmosphere of communal joy that is absent when you celebrate abroad. It brings home the importance of the shared festivals, in marking seasons in our lives, and the things that make life good. We will be wishing our friends and family Happy Christmas in the sun, but will relish anew a real Christmas when we finally return home.