I spent the Christmas holidays in Bangkok, Thailand. A Buddhist Thai Christmas is not very different from the non-religious celebration of Hindus and Muslims in Guyana. The Christmas celebration has many of the features I was accustomed to in Guyana. The people may not go to a Christian church but they enjoy the festivities of the season.
Thailand is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation Guyana can emulate, because everyone gets along and its observance of Xmas is just one example in which people learn to live with each other.
Every Thai (Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists included) celebrated the Xmas spirit. They respect and observe each other’s festivals and they don’t seek to dominate or control each other’s way of life. The different groups live in peace and harmony. Everywhere I went, people wished me a merry Xmas when I told them I am from NYC. But most of them could not understand my living in NYC. So to make matters easy I told them I am from India and I am greeted with a “Namaste,” and they tell me how much they love Bollywood heroes Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai.
Thailand is largely a Buddhist nation (with Buddha’s birthday celebrated as a national holiday) but the other religions groups are free to practise their faiths without any restrictions. There are Hindu Mandirs, Christian Churches and Muslim Masjids. People wear their traditional clothing although most people seem to prefer western garments. Even Muslim women wear western clothing (jeans) with a head covering (not the traditional hijab) like the ohrni worn by Guyanese. Religious fanatics are not tolerated, not even in the masjids.
For the holiday season, there are massive Christmas trees) some rivalling the tree at Rockefeller Center in NYC) all over Bangkok. I have never seen a city (not even NYC) so dressed up with multi-coloured lights from the airport to the downtown area where the embassies of the major countries are located. Christmas carols belched from the speaker phones at the airport as well as in the taxi, the departmental stores, and the travel offices.
With regards to the Christmas spirit, although it is not a holiday, young people were celebrating the festival in much the same way non-Christians do in Guyana. Almost every office has a lighted Christmas tree. Homes have colourful lights. Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus buy each other gifts and have holiday meals. People went out for Christmas Eve as well as on Christmas evening after work; the malls were packed with people. Bars had no room to accommodate patrons. Young people (of all religious backgrounds) were seen having a festive time drinking beer and wine all over the place. In fact, the major beer companies sponsored live concerts at which carols were sung in addition to popular pop music.
For a country that is traditionally Buddhist, they sure know how to appreciate and enjoy a western celebration.