A Thailand Christmas tradition: Santa Elephants in Covid-19 masks

PHOTO: Santa elephants greet children at an Ayutthaya school. (via BKK Post)

“Hey Thaiger – is it possible to encompass just how different Christmas is in Thailand and in the Covid-19 era in just one lead sentence?” Why, yes it is: In Ayutthaya today, a school celebrated Christmas with elephants adorned in festive Santa hats as well as giant surgical masks, passing out gifts of face masks, hand gel, and balloons.

The elephant visit is a tradition going back 15 years at the Jirasartwitthaya School in Ayutthaya, though this year the tradition was modified a bit. With so much of normal life kneecapped this year, the holiday tradition addressed the, erm, elephant in the room by incorporating Covid-19 safety into the Christmas fun.

The children were ecstatic to see the Christmas elephants, something students look forward to every year, but with lockdowns and online learning, the celebration has been that much more meaningful. The organisers of the Santa elephant meet and greet, the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace, said they were sympathetic to the stressed out students struggling to learn online during a pandemic and hoped to make them happy to come to school.

The Santa elephants in their Covid-19 masks greeted excited students with gifts and joy in a perfectly Thai tradition. Even though Thailand is 98% Buddhist so doesn’t officially observe the Christmas holiday, but many still enjoy a Christmas celebration to end the year, especially school kids. Student’s crowded the elephants, taking selfies with them and rejoicing giddily at the gifts the elephants distributed to them.

Schools have been closed frequently in Thailand and closed again in April with the fast spreading third wave of Covid-19, but in October the government rolled out Pfizer vaccines for students aged 12 to 18, paving the way for schools to slowly reopen or partially reopen. Only 30% of classes were filled at the Ayutthaya school today as the elephants dressed as Santa visited, but the joy and cheer they brought with them was priceless.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.