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Merry Christmas, Thai style

Maya Taylor



PHOTO: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Technically, Christmas is not celebrated in Thailand. The April holiday of Songkran, or Thai New Year, is probably the closest equivalent, when families come together in a celebration centered around Buddhist practices. But December 25 is not a public holiday, and in most cases, the only time you’d find a Thai having Christmas Day off, would be if it happened to fall on their usual day off.

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist – around 90% of the population – with a significant Muslim population in the south, and around 1% who are Christian. Beyond the big cities and island holiday hotspots, you’d be hard-pressed to tell that it’s Christmas.

But step into a shopping mall, bar, or restaurant in the aforementioned tourist locations however, and the scene tells a different story. In the larger cities and on the holiday islands, the influence of Western culture is very evident. You will see giant Christmas trees in the middle of large shopping malls, along with an abundance of twinkling fairy lights and Santa figures. It’s the same in restaurants and bars populated by expats and tourists, with many offering the traditional Christmas meal you’d enjoy back home.

Although not an official holiday, international companies, or those with a mostly expat workforce, tend to give the day off, with most international schools offering several weeks’ leave. However, most Thai businesses will remain open. Your favourite street food vendor will still be there (albeit possibly wearing a Santa hat).

The Thaiger made Christmas Day an official holiday but still has part time staff doing the news because, well, the news doesn’t stop for Santa.

The period between December to February brings Thailand’s most pleasant weather and is known as the cool season. Yes, that’s all relative, but daily top temperatures are around 28–33 degrees Celsius as opposed to 35–40 in the ‘hot’ season. December and January mornings can be ‘freezing’ in Bangkok… as low as 20 degrees Celsius! In the mountainous north, it’s even cooler, with many breaking out the sweaters or jackets come evening.

This year, many Thais and expats will cast their minds back to halcyon, pre-Covid times, when December and January were also considered the peak tourist season – the high season. Normally, hordes of tourists would be thronging the beaches right now and packing out the bars and eateries. For Europeans and North Americans, the period coincides with their coldest temperatures, with many choosing to escape the harsh winter and soak up the Thai sunshine instead. This high season has already been a little bit different in the Kingdom this year, to say the least.

On behalf of The Thaiger team we would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and promise to keep you informed throughout.

Merry Christmas, Thai style | News by Thaiger Merry Christmas, Thai style | News by Thaiger

SOURCE: Thailand 505


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  1. Avatar

    Mister Stretch

    Friday, December 25, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    In Hat Yai we’ve noticed fewer decorations this year. Perhaps it is due to the fact that we’ve not had any tourists from Malaysia for many, many months…but it’s been a bit sad to not see the city and shopping centers decorate as they did in the past.

    I’ve also noticed fewer decorations and trees for sale in local department stores.

    Our house was the only one on the street with a tree this year.

    It was pleasant to see several youths dressed up in elf costumes and in Santa hats when out on our traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours…in Thailand or elsewhere.

    • Avatar


      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 2:44 pm

      I am currently staying in a hotel in Sathorn, Bangkok.

      Last night, I took a stroll around the neighbourhood, I noticed most eateries and pubs had hardly any customers in them and the few people walking in the streets were keeping a safe distance from each other.

      I hope next year, every thing will be back to normal.

      Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    • Avatar

      Kim Amey

      Friday, December 25, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      I’m not sure who writes this stuff but they give the impression they’ve never been to Thailand. I live in Mahasarakham (hardly a tourism hotspot) and there are always Christmas decorations put up in shops. Sometimes they are from last year because they don’t take then down but Thais do celebrate Christmas, at least the commercial side of it.

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