The closest I have been to celebrating a Christmas in Thailand are the Christmas lights and the big trees in the shopping malls. If we are lucky, like this year, we might also have a cold wind which will add to the illusion that it is Christmas. But none of this is real as the majority of Thai people are Buddhists and they are just celebrating for fun. Like in the West, it is all very commercial.
For the first time in many years, I’ve just celebrated what I consider to be more of a real Christmas. I’m in Sakon Nakhon Province which is in the Northeast of Thailand. A number of districts here have large Christian communities. The biggest is in Tha Rae sub-district where I’m told that out of the 50,000 or so residents, nearly 100% of them are Christians. To confirm this, all you have to do is walk around the neighbourhood on Christmas Eve and you will see that the majority of the houses are decorated with Christmas lights and decorations.
This is where I went on the 23rd and 24th of December. On the first evening I joined a tram tour around the neighbourhood where we took picture of all the beautifully lit houses. Everyone was so friendly and many people shouted out “Merry Christmas” to me. Afterwards I joined in with the first of three parades where local people carried handmade Star Lanterns to Saint Michael’s Cathedral. On Christmas Eve I was back again for a bigger parade of brightly lit stars on the back of about 30 pick-up trucks.
At the conclusion of the parade, the church bells started to toll and everyone headed to Saint Michael’s Cathedral for the nativity play. This was the first time I had seen this performed in the Thai language. It was the normal story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus in a stable. They even had kids dressed up as sheep and shepherds and three wise men. They all did a very good job much to the amusement of the large audience. The play was followed by a Christmas Mass.
On Christmas Day they had another parade, but this time much bigger. In addition to the floats from Sakon Nakhon, Thai Christians from three neighbouring provinces also took part in the parade. These provinces were Kalasin, Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom. I was told that this time there were over 300 vehicles taking part in the parade through Sakon Nakhon city. Apparently the day before they had all taken part in smaller parades in their local communities.
Lining the street were thousands of people who had come to watch the brightly lit parade. Most of the floats had a Santa Claus that was handing out candy to the children. Adults too joined the scramble to pick up the candy that was thrown into the crowd. It reminded me a bit of Halloween. Some of the floats were better than others. One of my favourites was the brightly lit tuk tuk being driven by Santa Claus.
What all the floats had in common was a giant Star of David which gives the name to the parades. The parade finished at St. Joseph School where everyone was entertained with Isaan style music. I had a great time and would recommend it to anyone who wants to celebrate more of a real Christmas in Thailand with other Christians.