This is now the second Christmas in a row that I have celebrated abroad. Last Christmas Eric and I were in Peru actually on Machu Picchu on Christmas day. Peruvians didn't really celebrate Christmas (besides awful fireworks at midnight on Christmas Eve) so we basically skipped Christmas last year. Thais, however, do celebrate Christmas in the only way they know how to celebrate--loud, confusing, hilarious, and gaudy. You might be thinking, "Aren't Thais mostly Buddhist?" Yes, they are almost all Buddhist, but Thailand is a country that loves to celebrate anything so although we still had to go to school on Christmas day it was filled with Christmas festivities. It was awesome.
On Christmas Eve Eric, Anna, and I spent the evening making Peanut Butter Balls for the teachers in our office and anyone else we felt like giving them to. It was a solid night of sugary peanut buttery goodness and we successfully found the necessary ingredients (powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, chocolate). I was very happy to be able to skype with my wonderful family on my Christmas morning (their Christmas Eve afternoon), which made me a bit sad to be missing our many Christmas Eve and Christmas traditions, but didn't have much time to think about it by the time we got to school. We were hurried to our office to get our Santa hats and were given bags of candy that we were told to hand out to the kids. I was overwhelmed as hundreds of little hands were shoved in my face to get a piece of candy and a few aggressive boys dove their hands in the bag to grab a handful for them and their friends. We eventually figured out that we were supposed to wait and then dramatically throw the candy to all the kids as they played Jingle Bells and took pictures. Unfortunately I don't have this documented, but I'm sure many people at school do.
After candy throwing we went into the auditorium where the students had set up booths the day before for the Christmas festival (which of course they skipped class to do). The kids sold various Thai treats at their booths, Mr Hiroshi, the Japanese teacher, sold kimonos for the kids to dress in, and we did crafts with the kids (we didn't really understand what we were supposed to with at our booth so a lot of students were surprised that we weren't selling anything).
However, before the buying, selling, games, etc, there were some exceptional performances. We were ushered over to the chairs where other teachers were sitting and watched the principal, who was dressed as Santa and who I don't think we have ever met, make a speech in English that Eric wrote. He is pictured demanding they move the podium up to the stage.
After the welcome speech, groups of students did some overly dramatic Christmas skits and dances.
And what would Christmas be without Gangnam Style? I swear I still hear that song at least 4 times a week and Thailand will probably ride the Gangnam train for another year. These performances also includes a segment where some boys did an actually really awesome robotic hip hop dance wearing batman sweatshirts and creepy white masks. It didn't necessarily scream Christmas to me, but was hilarious none the less.
After the performances, students were free to hang out and buy stuff at the different booths while Miss Christmas was being judged. Thais are really into beauty pageants and some of these pageants come close to matching America's " Toddlers in Tiaras". As expected, the judges chose the tallest and whitest girl wearing the least amount of clothing. Meanwhile, we were crafting it up with some kids making popsicle stick ornaments and paper snow flakes. It is amazing how into arts and crafts some kids here are. Whenever I have an assignment that involves drawing they whip up some amazing piece of art. We had one boy who stayed at the booth making paper snowflakes even after we left.
The Christmas festival ended at noon and we went back to the quiet of our office until they brought out the Christmas cake (topped with butter frosting that I swear was just butter with food dye) and other packaged treats. We gave all of the other teachers the peanut butter balls, which they were grateful for until they bit into them. We thought they would for sure love them since they are so sweet (and delicious), but they all said they were too sweet! Eric, Anna, and I decided it's because Thais don't eat rich food and peanut butter is pretty foreign. Li, the Chinese teacher, and my student/friend Nay, who lived in Norway for a year, said she liked them.
We were supposed to have classes in the afternoon and surprisingly my 7th period class actually did show up, so I taught a New Years lesson where we attempted to write New Year resolutions. My 8th period class, however, did not make an appearance. Instead, the best students in that class came to class to tell me they were having an ice cream party and weren't coming to class, but invited me to come to the ice cream party. An entire class of 50 not showing up for class is all too common for me and I knew there wasn't anything I could do about it, so I went down to where my entire class was hanging out eating Nam Keng Sai--a Thai dessert of shaved ice which the students put syrup, pieces of white bread, and corn flakes in. Bet you never ordered that at your favorite Thai restaurant in the US! I attempted to get them to sing a Christmas song for my family, but they were clearly over it.