People who spend time hanging out in Bangkok in the month of December will notice the large number of Christmas tree that suddenly spring up all over the city at this time of year. Festive decorations of all types, shapes and sizes can be found strewn all over the city at the end of the year, while Christmas tunes are blasted from the speakers of virtually all large shopping centres and supermarkets. And yet Thailand is primarily a Buddhist country where Christmas is not officially celebrated. So what exactly is the role of Christmas in Thailand?
As people who have spent time in the Land of Smiles will know, Thai people love to party and any occasion is an excuse to celebrate. While most Thai people do not really celebrate Christmas, they are more than happy to join in the fun if an opportunity presents itself.
Christmas is not an official holiday in Thailand, so the chances are you will be expected to go into work on Christmas Day if you are employed in the Land of Smiles. However, most schools, offices and other places of employment tend to be decorated at this time of year, and some employers even throw Christmas parties for their Western staffs.
Christmas around Thailand
Christmas celebrations in Thailand are mostly limited to cities such as Bangkok where there is a large number of expats. Special Christmas celebrations are also held for tourists in some of the country’s most popular destinations such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Phangan.
Most of the largest restaurants and hotels offer special Christmas menus both on December 25th and for a few days surrounding Christmas Day. Enjoying a decadent dinner with a group of friends can really help take the edge off feelings of homesickness at this time of year, and the types of meals that are offered range from gourmet buffets that include a wide range of both Western and Thai dishes to traditional Christmas meals that are served in some of Thailand’s most elegant establishments.
Celebrating on the Islands
Special Christmas parties are also held at most of the largest bars and clubs in Thailand. People who want to try something a little different this year can also head to picturesque islands such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phangan to dance on the sand while djs spin the latest hot tunes on the decks.
Bangkok is home to a number of Christian churches, and these establishments offer special Christmas services including midnight mass. People who want to join a Christmas service can visit churches such as the Holy Redeemer on Soi Ruam Rudi, Assumption Cathedral and Saint John’s Catholic Church, which is situated in the Chatuchak district of Bangkok.
Santa in Town
Families who want to make sure that their kids don’t miss out on the magic of meeting Father Christmas will find Santa’s grottos in some of Bangkok’s largest shopping centres such as Central World and Paragon. Some of the largest hotels in Thailand also schedule special Santa appearances for their guests. Many of the schools in Bangkok also hold Christmas celebrations for their students, which include a visit from Santa, the giving of gifts and singing Christmas songs.
People who love Christmas don’t have to miss out on their favourite holiday just because they are spending time in the Land of Smiles. Thailand provides plenty of opportunities to celebrate this special time of year, so take your pick from the various different options and have fun!
By Kirsty Turner