Christmas in Thailand…our first on our own
December 29, 2016
I’ve shared a few pictures on Facebook of some of our Christmas activities, but I wanted to share more of my thoughts on Christmas in Thailand. It is the first Christmas without the crazy excitement of school and also the first Christmas without at least one of our kids home for the holidays. Add to that the fact that we are far from winter in a tropical country and it complicates the discussion even more. This is more a reflection on all the changes that retirement and independent grown up children bring to your life, than just a travel blog post.
I have enjoyed the opportunity of being away from home and reflecting on what is really important about those things I have done every year to celebrate the Christmas season. What are the things I do that are just because I always did them, or my mother did them, or my grandmother did them and what are the things that if I don’t make them happen, Christmas won’t feel like it happened?
Celebrating a Christian holiday in a Buddhist country meant we had to look a little more carefully for what we wanted. It also reminded us to question the value of our traditions. Spending time this season with some Australians was another reminder that the North American version of this holiday is not what everyone in the world is used to. Having Christmas in the middle of summer every year puts a different twist on to things.
What we did and didn’t do.
Gifts were not a very big part of our Christmas this year. Living small has put us off of stuff. We bought a subscription to Google Play Music to have access to any music we want, especially while we are away. We also bought some toys for the kids who are here every day while their parents work at the building.
I made some photo cards for the people we’ve met and spend time with. Having my external drive along with all my pictures made that pretty easy. Pete had a Thai woman in the building write out the names of the staff in Thai and he made up cards with a message and their names in Thai. We found some chocolates at the store and a couple of bottles of Quebec maple syrup that we gave away.
Singing in a choir in December has been part of our lives since we moved to Rocky Mountain House. We sang with Northern Crossing for about 20 years and shared the gift of music with the community. I directed the Northern Crossing Children’s Choir for 11 years and accompanied them for another year. We had several performances in the community and at the Festival of Trees in Red Deer. That event always got me inspired to get a tree up and decorated.
I had a choir at the school for 29 years and we had performances at school. For the last 8 years Peter and I have sung with Soliloquy in Red Deer and had concerts of winter and Christmas music in formal and less formal settings. In addition, we have sung in the church choir for many years and I have directed this wonderful group of musicians for a long time as well. Christmas without music at church would be unheard of in our life.
So what we did do was join a choir here in Chiang Mai, called Lannacapella. This group of about 15 is composed of singers from Japan, England, Australia, United States and now Canada. We didn’t know they existed until the end of November so we had 2 weeks to prepare for the first performances at the local Anglican church as part of their lessons and carols services. The director was helping with accompanying on the church organ, an opportunity that is not available at most of their venues, hence the a cappella emphasis. I offered to help conduct at rehearsal. Before I knew it I was the conductor of the group. Peter is a big help to the bass section. They were as happy to have us appear, as we were to find them. One of the members picks us up a couple of km walk from here and takes us to all the rehearsals and performances. Pete is off golfing today with one of the men. Another woman shared her home for a rehearsal.
We had another chance to sing at a beautiful resort, the Ratilanna Riverside Resort for a group in town called the Swiss Lanna Society. We did 6 carols-3 on our own and 3 as singalongs. Silent Night was sung first in English, then in German and then in authentic Japanese with our native speakers doing the words and the choir humming along. The audience joined in with us as we all sang the first verse again. Pete played guitar with us on that one. It sounded really nice.
On Christmas Eve we had lunch at the Le Meridien Hotel for of the Ex-Pats club Christmas meeting. The meal was fantastic and could have been served any place in the world. The Christmas pudding and Pecan Pie were highlights but the Jamaican Fish in curry and the leg of lamb were pretty spectacular too.
There was a drama group that did 2 reader’s theatre. One was a story of how John Pierpont was such a failure…except for his penning of Jingle Bells. The second one was the story of the Germans and Allied Soldiers that held the Silent Night truce during the war. They were very believable in their rendition.
Our choir sang in between their performances and were very well received. We did the same program as the night before, but we had more people singing along. It was fun to be part of the event in such a glamorous location.
We walked home from the concert with my camera backpack and Pete carrying his guitar on his back. We went into a grocery store on the way home and bought a freshly cooked deli chicken for our Christmas dinner. They are all pre-cut into sections and then put back together to look like a chicken. We bought some croissants for Christmas morning but unfortunately they ended up in the bag with the hot chicken and were not so recognizable by the time we walked home a couple of km.
The sister hotel to this one held an open house in the evening. They provided some food but people brought pot luck items too. There was kiwi fruit arranged like a tree, decorated with strawberries. Someone found a roasted, smoked ham from a vendor. Others brought pizza or cake. The bakeries here do fantastic pastries. We took a plate of mixed raw vegetables and a dip I made from Greek yogurt and Montreal Steak spice. It was all I had but it was pretty good.
They had a tree set up and you could buy wine or beer. Many of the staff who work here came to the party as well. It was a nice gathering with many of the people we’ve met since we arrived.
We wanted to go to church in the evening, but the services weren’t until 11 pm and were too far away to walk. It would have been very difficult to get a ride back home at that time so we decided we would have to put that on the “didn’t do” list.
I woke up early to catch up on the pictures and conversations from my family in the western world. They shared their stories from Christmas Eve. Peter and I had coffee and mandarin oranges together in the room.
We met with some neighbors to have our traditional mimosas out under the pergola. Sparkling wine with mango and passion fruit juice is special in any country. Pete and I finished our tradition with the squashed croissants with butter and jam.
We ordered an uber (which is even cheaper than a songtaew, especially for 2-3 people) and went to church Christmas morning. Jeanne from North Carolina came along with us. It was a community church in English, and the message and last carol were great. It was lucky we were early enough for that much, since I had the wrong start time in my head. The service started at 10, not 11 as I thought. Oops!
After church we came back to the apartment. Pete had a nap and I spent the afternoon riding the bike in the gym and sitting by the pool. It was so quiet and peaceful.
I came back and put our dinner together. We heated up the chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots/cauliflower/broccoli, and peas. I found a box of stovetop stuffing in a store here too so the meal was delicious. Instead of cranberry sauce I had Thai chili meat sauce for my chicken, but that was still good. A couple of chocolates and a glass of red wine in a coffee mug finished off the meal.
The evening was spent taking with family at home now that it was Christmas there. We talked with Tim, Suzan and Joyce in Calgary on Facebook messenger video. We connected with Owen and Megan in Houston on What’s App. Melissa was off grid in Peru, but talked with us on What’s App video before she left. My Mom was too late getting up for us to stay awake any longer, but we talked with her on Google Hangouts on Boxing Day morning, which was Christmas night in Canmore. The technology makes staying in touch with family anywhere in the world so much easier. I missed the kids. Pete missed them even more. If we had been at home, we probably would have been alone unless we went south to spend it with Owen and Megan. The annual Boxing Day at Tim’s might have made up for some of that feeling of being away from family.
We shared pictures on What’s App and Facebook so people knew what we were doing as well. It wasn’t that long ago the only way we communicated with family was with long distance telephone. It was much better to talk on video if we couldn’t be in the same room, or even the same continent.
Christmas Did and Didn’ts
- sing in a choir
- spend time with people
- eat traditional favorite foods
- go to church
- buy gifts for kids
- give cards to friends
- spend time reading Facebook posts to keep up with family and friends
- hang out at the pool
- wear our flip flops all day
- feel stressed
- spend hours shopping
- overeat cookies and chocolate
- put up a tree or decorate
- sit by the fire enjoying the warmth against a cold and snowy night
- go out into the forest and get a tree
- sing in the Soliloquy Choir at Christmas celebrations
- share boxing day adventure stories
- set ski trails at the golf course
It was an interesting Christmas Season. I’ll see how I feel about it next year with time to ponder between now and then.