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Christmas stories are a little different in Bangkok’s slums

Caitlin Ashworth



PHOTO: Borgen Magazine

Christmas stories are a little different in Bangkok’s slums. One legend has it that Mary and Joseph didn’t make it to Bethlehem and Jesus was born under the local railroad bridge in Bangkok.

Father Joe Maier knows quite a few stories told a little differently than the ones written in the Bible. The American priest has run the Mercy Centre providing support for people in Bangkok’s Klong Toey slums for more than 4 decades. In an article in the Bangkok Post a few years ago, Father Joe wrote about the nativity story told in the slaughterhouse neighbourhood’s the Catholic community.

Some say that one day, Joseph and Mary, who was 9 months pregnant, showed up to the village on their way to Bethlehem asking for directions. Joseph talked about the angels and how Mary was destined to give birth in Bethlehem to the son of God.

The village elder didn’t know the way to Bethlehem. Looking back up at the stars to guide them, Mary and Joseph decided they would travel up a river and asked the elder if they could borrow a boat. The elder told them his brother that worked at a slaughterhouse, which was by a river port, could help them get a boat. Some people in Klong Toey say Mary and Joseph didn’t make it to Bethlehem.

Our legends and truths say the baby Jesus was born in a stable. And, yes, maybe that much is true. But the old folks here say the baby was born under the narrow-gauge railway. And, if that’s what you believe, that’s okay too.

In comparison to the biblical story, Mary giving birth in a stable doesn’t quite make sense to those in the slaughterhouse neighbourhood. Locals would have never allowed a woman to give birth in a pen around pigs that were waiting to be butchered, Father Joe says.

Somehow the story evolved. Maybe because under the railroad seemed like a more proper place for a woman with nowhere to stay to give birth. The poorest locals often stay under the railroad bridge. Father Joe says it “feels safe and sacred and protected.”

Click HERE to read Father Joe’s full story about Christmas legends in Bangkok’s Klong Toey slums.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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  1. Avatar


    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Says everything about Governments priorities that Klong toey slums still exist in 2020. Highlights the division, with an area of poverty sandwiched between the wealth of Sathon and Sukhumvit

  2. Avatar


    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 10:53 am

    I love that slum, still appreciate some volunteers work for the improvement of it. It is not a slum, it is an arrival village for unskills.

    • Avatar

      John Brown

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 7:05 pm

      I used to volunteer there many years ago. Father Joe is as kindly and gracious as they say.

  3. Avatar


    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Jesus was not born in Bangkok, they could not find 3 wise mean and a virgin

    • Avatar


      Saturday, December 26, 2020 at 10:21 am

      had a good laugh from that one.

  4. Avatar

    John Brown

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 7:06 pm

    I used to volunteer there many years ago. Father Joe was as gracious and kindly as they say. I’m glad he’s still with us.

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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