Question: How Does Thailand celebrate Christmas?
Answer: Thai people absolutely love a celebration and they are all ready to jump into the festive season during Christmas. Actually, they also put on a good show for Thanksgiving and have bunnies at Easter.
In fact, the history of Chiang Mai involves American missionaries starting healthcare services in the 19th century and one of the very first Christian Churches still stands beautifully by the Ping River. It is connected to the Chiang Mai Christian School.
So, even though Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country, there are certainly Christian Thais that celebrate Christmas.
Does it feel like Christmas in Chiang Mai?
Well, Chiang Mai has a Christmas feel to it in the city because many shopping plazas and local restaurants decorate with Christmas paraphernalia. You will see giant Santas, reindeer and Christmas trees galore.
If you are someone who is filled with Christmas spirit, it will be echoed back to you through festive decorations. Shops also sell Christmas trees and Christmas-themed wrapping paper, so you won’t have to worry about stringing your own popcorn!
If you identify more as a Christmas Grinch, you will also find it easy to avoid too much of the Christmas vibe. Just keep to local stores, and stay away from the old city and the smaller restaurants.
I particularly love the spirit of Christmas here because we miss out on the media onslaught about buying presents and the focus on the more material side of Christmas.
What is Christmas Day like in Chiang Mai?
My family shares the traditions that we have followed for years. We begin the morning with pancakes served with local fruit, open presents and then prepare a home-cooked meal of our favorite Christmas food.
If you are not into cooking, I have great news for you! There are many expat restaurants and local hotels that put on a good Christmas buffet.
I have also tried a few of these and have enjoyed them immensely.
Local expat restaurateur, Rudi Goodman, loves to create a combination of American and British delights for his Christmas feast.
“I try to have a large variety of food for my expat clientele. We make a big ham, do a few turkeys, candied yams, pumkin pie, bacon sage dressing for the turykey, cranberry sauce. Also on the menu is smoked salmon, brussel srputs, fresh asparagus, egg plant parmigiana and a whole host of vegetables. I’ll also roast beef and lamb.”
You want to book the restaurant in advance. The meal will cost between $15 and $30.
There are four main churches that run services on Christmas day, but the most popular is Chiang Mai Community Church, which is non-denominational.
What Presents Do Expats Give and Receive for Christmas?
Moving to another country made us reflect upon ideas such as ‘ownership’ and ‘material possessions’, so most expats don’t exchange presents that would be considered ‘possessions’. We don’t want to collect a whole heap of stuff, it just makes it difficult to move. We tend to just go out and celebrate by enjoying each others’ company at one of the many gorgeous restaurants here.
Unless, of course, we buy each other things that have a practical value, like food items although I have to admit that I really appreciated the mosquito zapper I received from Santa last year.
Creating a wonderful expat Christmas is an art. Do you have any tips on how to create the perfect Christmas when you are in another country? Please do tell me in the comments below. Just sign up for free.
By Rachel Devlin