|  November 26, 2009

Christmas has come early for 82 Thai families who will be having a fantastic December this year; the recipients of Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project: The Mekong Build 2009. The week-long event was a roaring success and now 82 families will be living in a wonderful new neighbourhood, which they helped to build. Christian or not, I am sure they are grateful for the Christian spirit of Habitat’s volunteers.

When I was a little girl one of my school friends lived across the canal from me. We often ran across the bridge to play together. One day she popped over and walked in as I was opening my presents from my Christmas stocking. I still remember her standing there, bug eyed, at the sight of my beautifully wrapped presents. When I told her that they were from a man called Santa Claus and that he brought presents to all good girls in the world, obnoxiously pointing out that I was one such good girl, she turned around and rushed home to see if she had received presents for being a good girl too. A couple of hours later her parents, rather upset, came over to see my parents. Apparently when my friend got home there was some serious drama – tears and tantrums – because she thought that Santa didn’t think she was a good enough girl to deserve presents. Her parents could not appease her wee broken heart so they decided to ask my parents to explain this thing called Christmas. Remember, this is thirty years ago, Christmas was not the commercial hit it is today, and many people in Chiang Mai didn’t really know the difference between Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, let alone heard of them. Years later my friend told me that she, and her sisters, all received presents from Santa every Christmas from that year on. And when the family crossed the bridge to visit Citylife’s garden party last year, her mother laughingly told me that the tradition took root and now the grand children expect, and receive, Christmas presents as well. Christmas became a part of their family tradition.

Religion aside, Christmas is a lovely thing (Thais are generally very welcoming of, and not threatened by, Christianity and other religions, after all with conversion numbers negligible, we can afford to be gracious). It is a wonderful punctuation to what has been, for many, and 2009 especially, a very hard year. It’s time to kick back and perhaps take things a bit easier, give presents, parties or time to those we hold dear, perhaps even reach out and do some feel-good deeds.

Wishing you all a blissfully happy Christmas and see you for an exciting new year.

Citylife this month:

Citylife’s Multiple Personality issue features just some of the many colourful, outspoken, intriguing, or typical personalities that live in Chiang Mai. We introduce you to a radical writer, a cultural icon, an irreverent reverend, housewives-next-door, a career expat, an intrepid explorer and a couple of entrepreneurs. I hope that you enjoy meeting them, getting to know them, and hearing what they have to say.

[right]Pim Kemasingki