This Christmas heralded many firsts; first without family, first outside of Britain, first working and first in a country that doesn’t celebrate it. I was sadder than I thought I would be on Christmas morning but it didn’t last too long; I was really grateful to be working in the end. Where I had been fairly jealous of the people who had got the time off I think if I had been travelling about I would not have felt festive at all since Christmas here has little more significance than St Patrick’s day back home. Being in school though I got to spend a week teaching the children to sing We Wish You A Merry Christmas (Melly Crissmas), doing dance routines to Jingle Bells and sitting in the head of English’s office making paper snowflakes and Christmas trees for their display whilst watching copious festive films with another teacher.
I was a bit curious about how the Buddhist Thai curriculum would handle teaching the children about Christmas; we were generally decided that it was most likely going to focus on the Father Christmas mythology as the meaning of Christmas rather than the JC version we get at home. Thailand does love St Nick, as demonstrated by the huge quantity of Father Christmas hats kicking around school on Christmas week. I was very impressed with how they taught it in the end though; it was actually a more comprehensive and secular lesson on Christmas than I ever had back home and I even learned a few things, which I’m sure would amuse the Thai teachers no end!
Fellow teacher Rachel was asked to read their pre-prepared speech about the origins and purpose of Christmas and the following is a much shorter paraphrased version of the Thai view on Christmas:
Europeans have held a mid-winter festival for millennia, initially over the winter solstice when fires were traditionally lit to herald the return of the sun (something my hippy family still does). Most European countries had their own version of a mid-Winter feast or festival for various reasons; the celebration of a good harvest, assorted pagan religious beliefs or simply to brighten the darkest part of the year. Many Christians believe that Jesus was born on this date and as such it is particularly special to them. Christmas has always been associated with feasting and drinking and generally being merry. Many people from all over the world today celebrate Christmas as a time to be with family, exchange gifts and party (no they did not use the word party as a verb, but as I said, I’m paraphrasing).
How fab is that? Informative and historically and contemporarily accurate; I wish they could teach it like that at home rather than denying it ever existed before JC. Everyone I know celebrates Christmas but I can count on one hand the number of people I know that believe whole-heartedly in the Christian version, that doesn’t mean it’s not special to them. There has always been a midwinter festival that has evolved over the course of time and adapted depending on people’s beliefs and it is still doing that now.
After the big school assembly I had a class of adorable little sprogs who surprised me by donning this fabulous get-up!
Then it was off to the art cafe, my friend’s bar which I am watching for her whilst she is exploring Korea, to prepare western food that had been painfully stockpiled on trips to Bangkok’s Siam Paragon international gourmet market, decorate and generally get spruced up. We had a brilliant feast and if I couldn’t have been at home I couldn’t have asked to be with better people. The only real difference of course is that back in Britain when the old fella eats too much and dozes off on the sofa after dinner this doesn’t happen: