Culturally, Thailand is a Buddhist nation. 99% of people are Buddhist, whether they are a monk or non-practicing. What kind of place does Christmas have in a country such as this? Well…
Thailand is also the most free, least corrupted, non-communist, commercial and globalized country of the Burma-Thailand-Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam region of SE Asia. Most Thai people have a curiosity and fascination for the West, and particularly America, that welcomes culturally American lifestyles and preferences. Commercially, Thailand is the most capitalist of this immediate region and, I think you can see where this is going…
Aside from the beautifully devout churches of Thailand that are celebrating the meaning of the season, Christmas in Thailand means everything that Christmas in America means: Buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend! It’s the most wonderful time of the year for commercialization.
In the West, the meaning of Christmas and modern Christmas commercialization morph into one. A Christmas tree is found next to a nativity scene and we celebrate the divine birth in a manger by running up credit cards. Even this irony is lost in the busyness of the season. Culture and religion intermingle, uncomfortably for many.
In Thailand, however, it’s just unapologetic commercialization. That big and beautifully decorated tree in front of the department store? No real or deeper meaning at all – it means “This is the time of year where we must shop a little more.” All those beautiful Christmas lights? They’re all connected to commerce. Traditional Christmas songs are only overheard when you’re in the mall.
The considerations and commentaries surrounding culture, religion, globalization, travel, spirituality and economics are far too expansive to wrestle with here, but experiencing Christmas through the eyes of a non-culturally Christian, but still-capitalist, worldview has been fascinating.
Give a creative gift, cherish the time with your family, celebrate the meaning of the season.
Merry Christmas from Thailand.