Monday, 19 December 2011

Why I love Christmas in Thailand - by Paul Garrigan author of 'Dead Drunk'

It is now only a few weeks until Christmas, and I must admit to feeling a bit excited by it all. The decorations are already up in our house; this year we bought our biggest plastic tree yet. If you walk past our home here in Minburi there is a good chance that you will hear Christmas songs. It really is the most wonderful time of the year for me – I love it.

Pagans and Jingle Bells

My current enthusiasm for Christmas is a bit surprising; especially when I consider that it was only a couple of years ago that I was debating whether to even celebrate it anymore. After all, we live in Thailand and we are not a Christian family. I also wondered about the ethics of introducing my son to the whole Santa idea. Then I remembered how much this time of year had meant to me as a child. I don’t want my son to miss out on any of that. Most of my favourite memories of growing up are connected with Christmas. Even when I stopped believing in Santa I still wanted to believe in him – I sort of still do.

A cynic could point out that Christmas is all just manufactured hype; a cunning marketing ploy to get people to empty their pockets before the beginning of the next financial year. Of course it is a special day to most Christians, but even some of them do not agree that it is actually the birth date of their saviour (which is probably in January). It is more likely that they selected the 25th of December so as to take over the winter solstice celebrations that were so popular with my European pagan ancestors. This helps explain why so many of the festive traditions are more related to paganism. So the Christians stole Christmas from the pagans, and marketing gurus in the twentieth century managed to hijack it and turn it into the celebrations we love today. You don’t have to dig deep underneath the surface of Christmas to see that it is built on a shaky foundation – even the much loved song Jingle Bells wasn’t actually written about Christmas!

I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday – So Does Tescos!

Despite the reasons to be cynical this is my favourite time of year. It is a part of my culture that I love sharing with my son. Timmy is growing up in Thailand and it can be a struggle to keep him interested in his western heritage; this is one part of my culture that he willingly wants to embrace. My wife never celebrated Christmas until after my son was born; during our first few years together in Thailand I didn’t even bother with it. Now she loves this time of year too.

Growing up in Ireland I naively assumed that everyone on the planet celebrated this holiday. The Coca-Cola advert assured me that this was true and in those days we were less savvy about marketing gimmicks. I thought it was so wonderful that we had this one day when we all tried to be friends. It gave me hope because if we could get one day right then it would be a lot easier to get other days right too. If that could happen it would be our highest human achievement so far. I’m older now and realise that Christmas is far from perfect, but it probably is the nearest we have gotten to such a marvellous day.

Happy Christmas

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Click here to check out more of Paul's blog posts, on his website

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