Christmas in Thailand

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house… it was 35 degrees and shoppers were stampeding Emporium, Paragon and Central World. The only snow was the artificial kind, ditto the mistletoe, and hordes of Thai university students were busy Instagramming themselves in front of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen.

Talk about culture shock.

Christmas in Thailand

If there’s one time of year when Western expats feel acutely and unavoidably far from home, it’s the holidays. Granted, everyone has their own sorts of holiday traditions. My family goes all out for Christmas with a Rockwell-worthy behemoth of a turkey, reruns of The Grinch, and the biggest tree we can cram through our door. My husband’s family honors Hanukkah in the traditional way, then gleefully celebrates Christmas with the obligatory Chinese takeout feast and gingerbread cookies. For other friends of ours, the holidays are simply an excuse for parties with heady, cinnamon-infused mulled wine and carols which none of us can really sing properly.

It doesn’t really matter how you celebrate; what matters to most people is the feelings of tradition, continuity and togetherness. And when you’ve moved to a very different sort of country, presumably very far from extended family, it’s easy to feel a bit lost. When I first came here, I missed my Christmas. More importantly, I worried that my children would never feel the same connection with the holiday that I did. My oldest child complained that it wasn’t the same, but my youngest didn’t really remember anything different. The holiday season just didn’t mean much to him, and he had no problem swapping fir trees for palms.

So I resolved to give my kids something to celebrate. It wouldn’t be the same as what my husband and I grew up with, but it could still be special. Here are a few ways we made our Bangkok Christmas work.

  1. Embrace it. Once my husband and I accepted that we could start new traditions instead of trying to replicate old ones, everything about the holiday season became a lot less stressful and a whole lot more fun. For Christmas one year, we took the family on a beach vacation to Koh Samet. Traditional? Not really, but we were all together and we had a blast. This year we’re planning to try Koh Chang.
  2. Stay in touch. Don’t forget about friends, relatives and loved ones in your home country. If you can’t go back to visit, make the extra effort to send those cards and get the kids to help decorate them (mine managed to cover our living room in red and green glitter, but it was worth it). Or set up a family Skype call on Christmas morning.
  3. Deck the halls. Cheesy as they may be, there’s something undeniably festive about Christmas decorations. Bangkok Christmas  stocks just about everything you need to trim your faux-tree and home.
  4. Remember to give back. There’s no better time of year to show a generous spirit. Donate to your favorite charity, or get your kids to help you pick something that matters to them. If you’re looking for suggestions, In Search of Sanuk is a small, grassroots organization that helps families and children in need in Bangkok.
  5. Feast. Food has a way of evoking memories. While you can certainly go all-out and pay for a fancy festive dinner at one of Bangkok’s hotels, you can also make many of your favorites at home. Saveur Magazine releases a new Christmas cookie every day in December, giving your little ones plenty of sweets to roll, cut out, decorate and, of course, eat.

Photo Credit: lancefisher via Compfight cc

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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