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Christmas in Thailand Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Culture

In a country that is 95% Buddhist, you probably wouldn’t expect to see much of a Christmas celebration in Thailand. Believe it or not, Christmas is celebrated – as a secular holiday – by many across the country. There are also a few Christians who celebrate the religious aspect of the holiday. Let’s learn a bit about Christmas in Thailand as well as some Thai vocabulary.

Christianity in Thailand

Image by Paul_the_Seeker from flickr.com.

Christianity (ศาสนาคริสต์ sàat-sà-năa krít) came to Thailand via European missionaries, starting with the Portuguese. Under King Narai (นารายณ์), European missionaries were treated quite well and had a large influence at court. This was reversed after his death, when Westerners were expelled from the country. This lasted over 100 years, until King Taksin (ตากสิน) welcomed French missionaries into Thailand and even helped them build a church. Protestants arrived in Bangkok in 1828, followed closely by American Baptists and Presbyterians. The missionaries didn’t have much success in converting people, but they did introduce Western medicine, technology, and methodology. They even introduced the printing press and helped set up the first one using the Thai script. However, it was not until the 1970s that the church began to see significant growth in Thailand. As of the 2000 census, there were 486,840 Christians in Thailand – just around 1% of the population.

A Thai Christmas

Image by empty007 from www.flickr.com

Thai people are known to be very fun-loving and tolerant, so it should come as no surprise that many welcome the chance to celebrate another holiday. Christmas (วันคริสต์มาส wan krít-mâat) isn’t a national holiday, but it is quite popular – especially the commercial aspect. You may not hear a lot of people talk about Jesus (พระเยซู prá yay-soo), but shopping malls are decked out in Christmas trees (ต้นคริสต์มาส dtôn krít-mâat), “Jingle Bells” (ระฆังกริ๊ง rá-kang gríng) are ringing, and you may even spot Santa Claus (ซานตาคลอส saan-dtaa-klôt). It’s definitely not going to be a white Christmas (คริสมาสต์สีขาว krít-mâat sĕe kăao) and you won’t be building a snowman (รูปปั้น มนุษย์ หิมะ rôop bpân má-nút hì-má), but you can still give your loved ones a gift (ของขวัญ kŏng kwăn) and sing some Christmas carols (เพลงคริสต์มาส playing krít-mâat). Lots of tourists come to Thailand to ring in the holidays, so you’ll certainly find a festive atmosphere come December, especially in places like Bangkok and Phuket.

How to Say “Merry Christmas” in Thai

Image by Mark Fischer from flickr.com.

If you’re celebrating Christmas in Thailand, you should learn how to give season’s greetings in the local language. Here’s how you say “Merry Christmas” in Thai:

สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส
sùk-kà-săn wan krít-mâat
Merry Christmas

While you’re at it, you might as well learn how to say “Happy New Year:”

สวัสดีปีใหม่
sà-wàt-dee bpee mài
Happy New Year

Practice both of these phrases with the help of Thai With Mod in this short video:

Wherever you are in the world, and regardless of what holidays you celebrate, we hope you all have a great end of 2016 and an even better 2017!

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About the Author:sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.