Christmas in Thailand
Well… Christmas in Thailand like everywhere else falls on December 25th, obviously. If you wanted a little more detail, Christmas Day in 2017 is specifically set to fall on a Monday!
It’s Christmas, but not as you know it! The Thais have a saying ‘same same, but different’, and this phrase sums up Christmas in Thailand better than any other.
On the one hand, you’ll see Christmas decorations in plenty of restaurants and hotels, particularly in the bigger cities; you’ll hear all the same Christmas songs you’ve grown to know and love (or not) over the years, playing on speakers; you’ll see giant, spectacularly decorated Christmas trees outside the shopping malls in Bangkok.
On the other hand, Christmas in Thailand isn’t actually a public holiday: the Thai people go to work and to school on Christmas Day just as they would any other day, and they don’t celebrate it as a religious occasion. While it is observed, and is getting to be a bigger deal over time, people who seriously celebrate it are still definitely in the minority.
Thailand is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, with over 90% of the population belonging to that religion. Christianity, by contrast, represents a measly 1%.
Over the years, however, Western culture has spread across Thailand like wildfire. This has even extended to traditionally Christian holidays, like Christmas. Obviously the Thai people don’t observe it as a religious festival: they don’t go to churches, offer prayers and sing Christmas carols.
Still, the Thai people love to have fun wherever possible; they’re famous for it. This means that when they see a good opportunity to party, they seize it, and Christmas definitely falls into that category. In practice this generally manifests itself in promotional nights at bars and clubs, as well as special offers at restaurants and the like. More traditions have been creeping in, including family members giving each other small presents, but it’s still nowhere near as important as it is in Christian countries.
Interestingly, the place where Christmas is most celebrated is actually in schools; the kids love it! Or, perhaps, the teachers just see a way to keep them quiet for a few hours. Either way, they definitely get in on the action. During the Christmas season they happily dress up, wear hats and sing Christmas carols.
You’re unlikely to find anywhere in Thailand that gets more into the Christmas spirit than Bangkok.
Cynically speaking, this is probably because they simply have the most tourists (and the Christmas/New Year period sees a massive boom in Thailand’s tourism each year). This means there are plenty of foreigners to both entertain, and sell to. In saying that, its not unusal to see Christmas decorations on the main road of towns, Yasothon being just one.
The massive shopping malls tend to have the most decorations, and they certainly have the largest. Particular highlights include an enormous Christmas tree outside Terminal 21, and Central World’s Christmas Garden.