Christmas traditions in Thailand
It is true to say that no nation likes to celebrate more than the Thais and so it didn’t take long for the seasonal celebration to take hold (they also celebrate Valentine’s Day and Halloween). This may come as a surprise to some, particularly as over 90% of the population is Buddhist and Christmas is a Christian festival.
However, it is worth remembering that the Сhristmas celebration has ancient roots in the winter solstice, and revelries involving holly, mistletoe, candles, feasts and gift-giving existed long before the Christian tradition. Besides, what could be more Buddhist in spirit than a celebration of joy, compassion and peace?
Thai Buddhism is also fairly relaxed when it comes to embracing other traditions. For example, many Thai Buddhists will also make offerings to their non-Buddhist house spirits, who they believe occupy the grounds of their properties. Most homes and businesses in Thailand have a miniature house outside of their property to offer shelter to the benevolent spirits who protect them - and come December time, they will also be decorated in tinsel, fairy lights and sometimes even tiny Santa hats!
For the Thais, December 25th is not a public holiday and so school and work life will continue on as normal. Some Thai families will give their children gifts on Christmas morning and share a celebratory evening meal – although, this is more likely to be a Thai curry rather than the traditional Christmas fare of roast turkey.
Just as in the rest of the world, Christmas in the city means big business. Although rather late by Western standards, Bangkok stores and shopping malls will begin putting up their decorations during the end of October. By December, the Christmas festivities will be in full swing and the entire city will be transformed into a Christmas wonderland. Every building, bridge and street light will be positively festooned in colorful, twinkling lights and decorations; the tuk-tuk drivers will be sporting Santa hats and at the bigger stores Santa Claus himself will be greeting Christmas shoppers with his palms pressed together in a wai, the traditional Thai greeting.
At this time of year the city is packed and the hotels filled to maximum capacity. However, there is much to dazzle and delight the visitor and for those who love to shop, Christmas in Bangkok is a must. Around the city the competition is fierce as to who has the tallest, most beautiful or sparkliest Christmas tree. CentralWorld, which also happens to be Bangkok's New Year countdown venue, is always a big contender for the prize as every year their Christmas tree is truly a spectacle to behold. The Siam Paragon, otherwise known as the ‘Pride of Bangkok’ always lives up to its nickname, with it being magnificently decorated throughout.
Most impressive are the palm trees in front of this huge mall, which are beautifully illuminated with fairy lights. The Peninsula Plaza too, is worth a mention with its unique decorations and displays, designed to delight and amuse the child that is inside every one of us. There are other great lights all over the city including at: Lumpini Park, Lumpini Q-House, the Four Seasons, MBK and in the surrounding area. In fact the whole of the business district is always drenched in a festival mood during the lead up to Christmas.
With the Thais love of festivities and good cheer, of giving presents and striving for peace and harmony it is easy to see the appeal of a Thai Christmas.