Merry Christmas Thai-Style

24 Dec

It’s a warm balmy almost Christmas here in Chiang Mai.  It’s the morning of Christmas eve and I am lounging in my bed reveling in my end of the quarter relaxation/exhaustion.  I have to admit I was a little… surprised.. at the Christmas blow-out, extravaganza put on my school.  If you don’t know, I work at a Thai school in Chiang Mai that hosts over 6,000 students.  It is Christian in nature, founded by missionaries, in the midst of a very buddhist country with a mostly buddhist student population.  Despite the Buddhist ways of this country, it has to be said that Christmas, in one form or another, has made its way to Thailand.  And without question, it has arrived in full decadent Thai splendor here at my school.DaraChristmasTrees

We started off with a little department Christmas party.  Innocent enough.  A little gift giving.  A little eating.  A few days later they upped the ante as our foreign teacher staff (about 30 or so) was invited… hmmm, perhaps strongly encouraged…  to sing a Christmas carol at the evening service celebration.  It was painless enough.  A little “Silent Night” with some smiling and candle lighting.  We made it virtually unscathed and the Christmas evening celebration continued.

After the Thai service was complete, we continued on to dinner.  There was a full stage and tables set up under the stars and a blast of karoke-style performances and dancing.  I have to acknowledge that the speaker system set up right by our table that night was… a little loud…as is the tendency here and was a bit overwhelming for my perhaps less indoctrinated Western ears. The evening continued… a feast of food served, a giant raffle with maybe hundreds of presents and prizes given away to staff. The raffle went on for hours. The trick is if you are not present, you don’t win your prize.  And there were big prizes like televisions and a refrigerator. I was fortunate to win a modest envelop of cash early in the evening which freed me up for a not-too-late Christmas celebration escape.

ChristmasbandAnd the celebration continues… the last day of school, December 23, began with a school-wide ceremony/presentation in the center of campus eventually followed by the annual Christmas parade.  It was innocent enough.  Some students were dressed up in costumes and marched around the campus.  We, the foreign staff also marched in the parade throwing candy to more than enthusiastic children.

After the parade we were invited to join our classrooms where they had a little Christmas party with their homeroom teacher. They ate pizza and cookies and candy and played while we spent a little more Christmas time together.  Some students sweetly presented gifts as the celebration continued.

I have to admit it was a bit of fun… and it was A LOT of Christmas.  Shockingly so. I had to laugh at the extremity of it.  Just the previous year I was in Vienna, Austria,  a Catholic country known for its celebration of Christmas.  And while, no one does Christmas like Vienna, I have to say this enthusiastic school nestled in the northlands of this Buddhist country gave Vienna a run for their money….in their own Thai style and fashion, of course.darachristmas

When our responsibilities as foreign teachers were complete for the day,  the campus continued to rock in Christmas celebration. There was a full on Christmas blast in the kindergarden area of campus, more games and celebration until… at last… the day was complete.  Ah.

I happily wrapped up my Christmas self and made my way home.  I packed up the quarter’s work in preparation for a new term to soon begin and sighed a bit of relief.

And now, I have a wonderful glorious break.  Not a bad little sprawl of about 10 days or so.  Ten days that I plan to enjoy, restore, relax.  And then January 4th, we do it all again.  But not for long as the Thai school year is quickly slipping by coming to completion.

And so from my state of post-Christmas celebration but pre-Christmas exhaustion, I am wishing you a big Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Thailand.  May it truly be a time of enthusiasm, grace, and peace in your world wherever you may be.

 

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