The past 48 hours have been quite strange/surreal. It is my first time celebrating Christmas outside of my home or my town for that matter. And I am celebrating it in a Buddhist country. That is like 80 degrees. Always. Talk about interesting circumstances.
Since arriving home from Hua Hin I honestly hadn’t really had time to realize it was actually Christmas. Monday was our Christmas Show/Activity at school. Each grade has been practicing putting together a little dance or performance to do in front of the entire school. We arrived at school at 7:30 so we could have a morning assembly filled with random Christmas songs, Thai “Christmas” opening ceremonies that were unfamiliar to us, and a chorus of foreign teachers singing Joy To The World. There was also some stuff about ASEAN thrown in there, obviously.
The entire school was decorated for Christmas, down to a mini winter village they built in the courtyard which consisted of a sled, reindeer and an igloo. Thailand’s interpretation of Christmas is very interesting. I am pretty sure most people have no idea why we celebrate it. It is the epitome of a “Hallmark” holiday. They use it as an excuse to have the kids dress up, sing, dance, and party in school. And give gifts. And eat. A lot. I don’t hate it.
So Christmas Eve was basically an in-school circus. Which was actually a lot of fun. My fourth graders had been working on a “sporty” Christmas dance for a month now and really worked their butts off getting all the moves down. They all got custom made cheerleading uniforms for the occasion, which all of the fourth grade teachers obviously got to wear as well. Makes total sense.
The morning was filled with performances, the afternoon with food, food, food and more food. And pictures. Thai people love taking pictures.
In conclusion Thai Christmas = dressing up, taking pictures, singing songs, dancing, and eating. The end!
Below is a video of my kids in their Christmas performance. The quality isn’t the best but they did so well!
After school we were all invited to two other foreign teachers homes for a Christmas Eve pot luck and white elephant. A few other girls who are teaching here from America in our town, joined us and we all met at the foreign couples house around 8PM. There was Thai food, Western food, all sorts of food (the day had a theme). We ate and drank and were merry and swapped gifts. It was so nice to be in a home with a tree and a living room and tables and chairs. I live in a studio apartment that is really like a dorm, so when you are in a home it is quiet the treat.
It felt like we weren’t 8000 miles away from home and that it was the holidays. It was so nice to be invited to celebrate with their family.
Today at school was less fun and more emotional. Waking up on Christmas morning in my little apartment was surreal. I knew it was Christmas but in my heart it didn’t feel like Christmas. No family, tree, snow, Santa. (My kids told me Santa lives in America and doesn’t come to Thailand so I knew I was shit out of luck). It was very strange.
The rest of today was a rollercoaster of being happy and sad. You want to recognize the day and make yourself excited it’s Christmas, but at the same time it really isn’t Christmas without my family. Christmas is easily the most important holiday in my family and to not celebrate with them, and be on a different time zone was so hard. So to make myself feel better I refused to teach and instead played my mom’s favorite movie, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The kids loved it. And it reminded me of home (again, bittersweet).
Tonight we will be going with another foreign teacher to a Thai church for mass and Christmas activities which should be really interesting. To be honest I just want to distract myself until the day is over! I look forward to Skyping my family and going to bed and waking up on Wednesday knowing in just 48 hours I will get to see my brother. And go to Koh Chang, an awesome island south of here. I get to see my little brother and ring in 2013 on the beach! I am a lucky duck.
Below is a Christmas message from my homeroom class. Merry Christmas to everyone back home, I miss you more than I could ever express in this silly little blog. Hug each other extra tight for me.
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Well said Suess, well said.