My American friend Casey shares of a Christmas in Thailand…
When we lived in America, I had a beautiful Christmas tree. It was filled with lights and ribbons and tons of glittery, red and gold ting sticking out at all angles. I had to stand on a chair to put the angel on top because it was so tall and so full. The first Christmas that we celebrated after moving to Thailand in the fall of 2014, I wasn’t prepared for how different Christmas would be and how many emotions I would struggle with because of those differences.
To me, Christmas had always felt like Christmas because of the decorations, and the beautiful wrapping paper. The schedules that were packed with school Christmas parties, church Christmas pageants, family Christmas lunches. And even though we lived in Mississippi, which can be unreasonably warm during the Christmas season, the weather also played a part in this “feeling” of Christmas.
I had none of that once we moved to Thailand. There was a Christmas tree, but my six-year old daughter could reach the top of it to put on the star. In place of my beautiful ornaments were homemade paper or popsicle stick ornaments and the random necklace that one of my daughters thought would make a nice addition. We found lights to put on the tree, but by the time Christmas rolled around, only the bottom half of the tree continued to stay lit. There were no parties, there were no family gatherings, there was no Christmas pageant. And it was hot. As in, dead-middle of Mississippi summer, with no indoor air-conditioning, hot.
We managed to find a mall Santa… who wore capris.
We didn’t have a lot of what I’d always considered, the necessities, in order to make Christmas, well… Christmas. But you know what we had a lot of during that first Christmas in Thailand? Without all of the parties and pageants to attend, we had a lot of family time together. We were actually able to make it through an entire Advent Bible study together instead of dropping off halfway through because of busyness. Without all of the decorations and class party gifts to buy and arrange, and without those expensive Christmas cards to stress over, we were able to give more to our Thai church and to a local Thai youth hostel. And without a country full of Santa Claus at every turn, we were able to put the focus on the birth of Jesus Christ.
We no longer live in Thailand. We now live in a western culture, similar to America, that does Christmas really well and really big. I, once again have, a slightly smaller, but beautiful Christmas tree. My presents are wrapped in beautiful Christmas paper that has no cartoon characters on it. We were able to see a perfect Santa Claus last week, that I’m convinced may have actually been the real one. But our schedules are once again filled with Christmas activities that are causing our family to see less and less of each other. I’m feeling stressed as I try to make it everywhere that we need to be, and have gifts for all of the parties that we need gifts for.
And I am longing for those two Christmases that we spent in Thailand, with nothing to focus on except that miraculous birth of the ONE who would come to save the world. Christmas in Thailand taught me so much, and as I enter into this Christmas season in this western culture, I’m determined to make a concerted effort to take a step back from the commercialization and the busyness and channel a Thai-style Christmas into our home this season.