Well its reputedly the most ha ha happiest time of the year, but for an expatriate in Bangkok that’s not always the case.
I often hear from friends here that they find it very difficult to get into the Christmas spirit here, and that’s understandable.
A Buddhist nation, Christmas has only been embraced by a handful of Thais, Christmas here is very commercial, and thus shallow. They get the decorations and even the music (its everywhere) but the spirit is lacking. Its not unique to Thailand, the same is true in many places in the world, just last night a friend of mine was relating a story, of how on a trip to Japan he saw Santa Clause on a crucifix!
The weather is hot, traffic is as bad as ever, most people carry on with the day to day lives, the office runs along as normal and so it becomes easy to let Christmas pass you by here as indeed I have several times over my 13 years here.
But not anymore. I miss it. Perhaps its because I’m a father now, but I want my son to enjoy Christmas as much as I did when I grew up. My parents house would be fully decked out so much so that it was like Santa’s grotto, there were none of these modern sleek Christmas trees, and artfully minimalistic decorations.
The week before Christmas my parents would leave nuts, sweets, and nibbles out on trays in the living room, my parents were not religious yet Christmas carols would be playing on the hi-fi and of course we had the UK’s wonderful build up of Christmas specials on the TV.
Growing up it very rarely snowed at Christmas in the South West of England, I never had a white Christmas that I can remember, save perhaps for the occasional flurry.
It occurs to me that the Christmas spirit that I felt, that magical Christmassy feeling I love, came not from the anticipation of getting presents (although that was always great) but it stemmed from the effort my parents put into it, they embraced Christmas wholeheartedly, and their enthusiasm was infectious.
I realise now that even in a country where its hot, and Christmas means little to many, it doesn’t have to be that way for my family. Just the act of fully embracing Christmas, with its cheezy songs, and tacky decorations brings the spirit alive.
I have introduced the concept to my extended family here too. It was quite an experience explaining the concept of giving gifts, we set upper limits on value which forces people to think about what they will give to each other. We sometimes invite some of my friends, but also even some the less privileged relations kids around and ensure that Santa does not forget them on his trip.
My in-laws have now come to embrace it, they even love the food in fact its still the only foreign food which my mother in law will eat!
Even though my in laws are Buddhists, we don’t let differences in religion stand in the way of the Spirit of Christmas which after all to me has always been about love in the family, love for your friends, and compassion for others. For us its become a tradition again.
So don’t let this Christmas slip by, embrace it and have your self a very Merry Christmas in Thailand or indeed wherever you are!