An Appreciation for 'Happy Holidays'

By Coday, Dennis | National Catholic Reporter, December 16, 2005 | Go to article overview

An Appreciation for 'Happy Holidays'


Coday, Dennis, National Catholic Reporter


Some of the most impressive Christmas decorations I have seen were in the upscale shopping malls of Bangkok, Thailand, a country that is 95 percent Buddhist and only about 1 percent Christian. By early November, the malls would be decked with boughs of holly. Giant tin soldiers and mounds of oversized presents stood guard at the entrances. Huge evergreen trees draped in tinsel and candy canes crammed atriums. Christmas-light outlines of angels, stars of Bethlehem and flying reindeer festooned the fronts of high rise hotels and office towers.

Freddy Fender's "Feliz Navidad," Johnny Cash's "Little Drummer Boy" and that little dog that barks "Jingle Bells" were standards on the radio stations that normally played American and British pop.

As you might have guessed already, the sentiments were as plastic as the holly.

The Bangkok Post carried full-page ads for department store season specials and holiday rates at five-star hotels and resorts. From mid-December, restaurants hosted Christmas buffets with glazed hams, roast turkeys and a dozen versions of figgy pudding.

Christmas was a commercial season, a Western import just like the German cars and Italian suits on sale. There were no "Put Christ back in Christmas" campaigns in Thailand. Thai Christians had no problem separating the commercial season, in which more than a few had a financial interest, and the religious--after all, who would expect to celebrate the Incarnation in a shopping mall?

Come Dec. 24 my wife and I would head for the countryside for the parish church where she, her brothers and sisters and most of her cousins were baptized, where they went to grade

school and we were married. Christmas was a major celebration and everyone came home--came to the parish to celebrate. …

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