Remembering that beginning the day after Thanksgiving in America (or is it the day after Halloween nowadays?!), the lights and decorations go up, the radio plays Christmas songs non-stop, the stores are crowded with eager shoppers, empty parking lots become tree sale showrooms, and there are endless rounds of parties and visiting with friends, family, and neighbors makes the difference between here and there all the more pronounced.
Here in Thailand, you find yourself pleasantly surprised and a bit nostalgic to see a Christmas tree in front of a hotel or store, or colorful lights blinking somewhere other than a roadside bar. For the vast majority of Thais, Christmas is just another day. If it falls on a weekday, there is work or school to go to.A few of our friends have put up artificial Christmas trees but in our muubaan (neighborhood) of maybe 300 homes, I’ve only seen three homes with any outside lights. And, yes, thanks to Elli’s insistence, ours is one of them! We have a few strings of lights on the plumeria tree in our yard.
As for our other accommodations to the Season, Elli strung up a single strand of white lights in the shape of a Christmas tree in a little wall niche. And Cissy bought three little pots of poinsettia flowers.
Oh, yes! The music! We were able to scrounge together a decent playlist of Christmas songs to help us get in the proper mood. And just like the American radio stations, we started playing them the day after Thanksgiving, mostly in the car but also at home through our computers since we don’t have a stereo or CD player in the house. Our collection is very eclectic ranging from classic worship songs such as “Silent Night, “Away in a Manger,” “The First Noel,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “We Three Kings” to secular favorites like Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman” by Gene Autry, and Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” to Hawaiian songs such as Na Leo’s “12 Days of Christmas Hawaiian Style” and “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby” and more modern stylings like Taylor Swift’s version of “White Christmas” and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” by Justin Beiber.
Cissy has also been busy in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies for one and all; the ZOE missionaries will get together for a Christmas party; and on Christmas Day we’ll gather at the Children’s Home for a special Christmas service, exchange of simple gifts, and a delicious lunch of pla taptim (tilapia).
But in light of the decided lack of lights and other holiday accoutrements, I, for one, welcome the change of pace this Christmas season. It certainly seems less stressful and much more relaxed. There is more time to reflect on the meaning of this holiday and what – or more precisely “Who” – we celebrate.
The air is brisk during the day and the sky is clear at night. Those same stars you see when you look up (be sure to look up!) are the very same we see from here. May we take our cue from those wise men of old:
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”
Merry Christmas to all!