There may not be much by way of snow to carry Santa’s sleigh in Thailand, and the ubiquitous saffron-robed monks and golden-spired temples are a reminder that this a predominantly Buddhist country. But any visitor to Bangkok between October and January would have reason to be confused over the country’s spiritual orientation, because the Thai capital embraces Christmas with a fervor that belies its reverence for Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. For Thais, of course, December 25 isn’t a moment to celebrate the birth of Christ; it’s simply a tinsel-festooned season to shop, set cellphone rings to “Deck the Halls” and feast on red-and-green hued sticky rice with coconut cream.
If you walk into the Thai Buddhist Temple that I go to here in Oregon, you will be greeted not only by the ubiquitous Buddha statue but also a Christmas tree and a musical Santa Claus.
This might seem strange to you, but it makes perfect sense if you have spent any time around Thai people.
Thais love all things “sanook.” That means things that are funny, pleasurable, and make you feel good. Sanook encompasses many more things as well. Basically, if you enjoy doing it and suffer no ill effects, it’s Sanook.
Thais love any excuse for a celebration. For example, they celebrate three different New Years. The western New Year, the Lunar or Chinese New Year and the traditional Thai New Year which is based on something that I have no idea of. Every little village has their own celebrations as well. Koh Samui, a resort island, has their Full Moon parties, though that is a western invention that was adopted by Thais for business reasons.
But Thais celebrate as well.
I have often said that Thais would celebrate Tuesday if it meant a party. It’s sanook.