And so this is Christmas, my second Christmas in Phuket, where finally after weeks of ordinary weather the sun is finally starting to shine freely once again. Christmas is still Christmas no matter where you are in the world, the reason for the season is still the same. But here, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas, the excitement and anticipation of the festive season are missing here.
Although many Thais are Buddhist, Christmas is still celebrated here to an extent. Many restaurants, hotels and shops put up Christmas decorations and many Thai people exchange presents also. School even finishes early on Christmas Eve and our local beer garden always puts on a Christmas Eve barbeque where Santa puts in a special appearance and hands out presents to good boys and girls. But those are just the things that make it look like Christmas. It still doesn’t feel like Christmas.
Maybe it’s because I have missed the bombardment of Christmas advertising on television. I rarely watch television here and when I do it’s cable without traditional commercials. Maybe it’s because I don’t go to the shopping centres and participate in the mad present purchasing frenzy. Maybe it’s because I had no work Christmas party this year. Maybe it’s because I missed my family’s Christmas celebration and Christmas drinks with much loved friends. Maybe it’s because I have not put up a Christmas tree and filled the house with tinsel and other glittering decorations whilst singing my favourite Christmas carols. Maybe it’s because I haven’t heard any Christmas carols. Maybe it’s because there aren’t any houses here thickly covered in bright multi-coloured lights and cut out Santas, reindeer and snow men. Maybe it’s because I will miss the Carols by Candlelight on Channel 9. Maybe it’s just a combination of all of these things.
Our Christmas celebration here is simple. A Christmas Eve dinner shared with friends at our favourite trattoria and a simple barbeque on Christmas day. No presents and no fanfare. Although I am recognising that the outside look and feel of Christmas is different here, when I sit and contemplate the meaning and reason of Christmas a whole new set of emotions emerge. Gratitude, peace and simple happiness. Gratitude for the birth of one of the world’s great teachers who lived his life in service of others to teach of love for one another and spread the message of peace. Gratitude for my life, for the people who are part of my life, for the many opportunities, experiences and blessings I have had and continue to have. Peace that is ever present within me when I stop focusing on the external elements of my life. Peace that I know is within everyone and can be shared with the world when we stop focusing on our differences and realise the commonality we all share. And finally simple happiness from just being, from living life simply and having a simple Christmas celebration.
So as I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, I also hope that everyone finds the peace, happiness and gratitude within and their own unique way to share this with the world so that all humankind can live in harmony with each other and our beautiful planet.
Merry Christmas. Peace, love, light and blessings to all.