People in the United States usually associate the month of December with Christmas trees, prime rib, and Hallmark Channel reruns. It has become a tradition for Adventure People to flock to someplace tropical during this month and this year was no exception. We just returned from the amazing country of Thailand!
It is true to say that no nation likes to celebrate more than the Thais and the Thai people keenly take part in Christmas celebrations in Thailand. This may come as a surprise, particularly since over 90% of the population is Buddhist and Christmas is a Christian festival. However, it is worth remembering that the Christmas celebration has ancient roots in the winter solstice, and revelries involving holly, mistletoe, candles, feasts and gift-giving existed long before the Christian tradition. Besides, what could be more Buddhist in spirit than a celebration of joy, compassion and peace?
December also happens to be the month of the King’s birthday , so there is more celebrating going on than usual. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great was born on December 5, 1927 to Prince Mahidol of Songkhla and Mom Sangwan. His Majesty is the ninth King of the Chakri Dynasty and the longest-reigning monarch in the history of Thailand. His Majesty the King is well recognized as the heart and soul of the Thai nation. On his birthday, which is observed as a National Holiday, all Thai people rejoice in demonstrating their affection and loyalty to him. Religious rites are held, houses and buildings are decorated with flags, lights and his portraits, along with widespread displays of yellow, the royal color.
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The King is a revered figure in Thailand and is seen as a unifying figure in a country experiencing political division. The Thai military seized power in May following six months of anti-government demonstrations that sought and succeeded in the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Although the King was a no-show for his 87th birthday celebration due to health reasons, celebration of his birthday, which also happens to be Father’s Day, continued in the capital and throughout the country. We were lucky enough to spend his birthday in the World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya, an ancient Siamese capital, where crowds celebrated with numerous forms of entertainment, as well as a spectacular fireworks presentation amid the ruins of this ancient city. Around 8pm, Thai nationals sang a song and lit candles to show their devotion to the king. It was a street party celebration like no other.
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Although December is considered their cool season, temperatures are still around 90 degrees in the day time and the only snow you’ll find will be on the screen of a badly tuned in television set. This time of year is also the high season, so hotels are usually filled to maximum capacity. However, there is much to dazzle and delight the visitor and for those who love to shop, Christmas shopping in Bangkok and the markets of Chiang Mai is a must!
Our next Season’s Greetings shout out will be about December in Hawaii. Until then: “Ewadee Pe-e Mai!”