Christmas in the tropics can be an odd experience for many people used to snowy window ledges, steaming mulled wine, last minute Christmas shopping in the cold and constant in-your-face Christmas songs and décor. So this year we help you to get into the Christmas spirit with all things Christmassy in Chiang Mai so that you are not rushing around on Christmas morning begging for spare crackers from your friends. Whether it’s where to find the perfectly festive wrapping paper, ideas for stocking fillers, where to get a turkey, who makes the best chestnut puree or where to get a Christmas tree…we’ve got you.
Turkeys & Stuffings
Turkeys are a staple for any Christmas table and whether you spend all day overseeing your bird in the oven, or pop it in before church, hoping for the best, you want to make sure that your turkey is well seasoned and stuffed. You can grab a turkey from any decent supermarket, but expect high demand so either buy early and defrost a day or so before — or place an order and let the supermarket do all the work for you!
If you choose Rimping, order at least five days before the big day (choices are imported American or local Thai). The turkey will be defrosted and ready for pick up and you can also order gravy, stuffing and a range of barbeque sides! Tops and Makro will also have turkeys on ice if you want to plan ahead, and they take orders too.
Or you can contact Turkey Farm Chiang Mai (084 443 6553), they do Thai turkeys for 250 baht/kilo and Chiang Mai Smoke House also sells cooked turkeys too (086 186 4713). Failing that, you could just pop to the market and grab yourself a local chicken and be done with it!
Trees & Baubles
Deck your sala with boughs of plastic holly this year by stocking up on some cheap tack to save a few bob. Tescos, Big C, Makro, Central, Robinson et al will have a range of Christmas décor, including tinsel, ball balls, plastic trees and fairy lights. If you are on a budget then check out the super kitsch Pao Pao on the Hang Dong Road (not far up the road from Airport Plaza 053 273 815).
We have heard that Ikea is now importing and delivering real Christmas trees to anywhere in Thailand, and they are surprisingly cheap! (www.ikea.com/th/en)
Crackers & Cracking Up
Christmas crackers are the Holy Grail if you can find them anywhere in the city! Tops sometimes stock imports from the UK’s Waitrose, and Rimping sometimes has them too but as they are a British tradition they are much harder to find than most other things festive.
We have also found Christmas crackers online on sites like Alibaba, but their jokes tend to be awful and not funny awful, just awful. If you are caught in a pinch, why not make your own by following instructions online, and replace the snapper with a Thai firework…if you dare!
Here’s a joke to get you in the spirit, “How will Christmas dinner be different after Brexit?” – “No Brussels.”
Stockings & Fillers
Filling a stocking is always great fun in theory but when Christmas is just a few sleeps away, that last handful of gifts seems so hard to gather. Our advice is to start early and just buy something if and when you see it (hopefully you will have at the Citylife Garden Fair)!
Maya’s Viva Loco and Japanese godowns (Ojisan Japan 089 996 2353) are a good bet as are all the fairs such as the upcoming NAP fair and walking streets. If you are into health then check out Health Shop Chiang Mai to get all things healthy like vegan lotions and beeswax cling films (053 206 888).
Christmas Cards & Wrapping Papers
Predictably, your best bet for these products are in the department stores, and B2S also has a large range of paper and ribbons to choose from. Careful with the Christmas cards however, a lot of them look like Christmas cards but when you open them up they wish you a Happy New Year! For some really nice, hand drawn Christmas cards, we highly recommend Nancy Chandler’s Thai-themed holiday cards that depict Santa in Thai clothing, presents on longtail boats and Santa flying over temples (nancychandler.net).
Thailand’s postal service can be notoriously slow so if you are sending anything via snail mail then you pretty much need to have done it by now! The Thai Postal Service charges rates based on weight and destination, but this year they have a sale for posts to seven countries; Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, UK and the USA. Packages start at 1,250 baht for 250g and documents files are as little as 450 baht. However if you are sending postcards or Christmas cards then they’ll still be much cheaper, just don’t forget to bring some ID.
The Big Food Shop
As avid food lovers here with our Spoon&Fork magazine and annual Thailand Tatler reviews, we must insist you make your own Christmas food. From cheese whirls to mince pies, Christmas pudding to Brussels sprouts — you can do it all if you plan well ahead and get in your ingredients early.
For Christmas items like chestnut puree and Christmas pudding check out supermarkets and American restaurants like Butter is Better (053 820 761). If you want to serve up a pork loin or roast beef instead of the traditional turkey, we recommend the Northern Farm butchers on Huay Kaew Road (053 217 460) for some huge cuts at really great prices.
Cookies & Nibbles
Even after the meal has been and gone, and belt straps are loosened an extra notch or two, there will always be space for a snack and a nibble. Skills4life sell European style Christmas cookies, with real chocolate and hazelnut for just 100 baht for 10, so email Dominique@skills4life.com and place an order. If you are a chocolate fan, why not buy some locally handcrafted Siamaya Chocolate that we talked about in our cocoa story this month on page 16. Marks & Spenser also has a range of Christmas biscuits and goodies that are famous in the UK but expect very high price tags. Sausage King and Kelly’s Fish and Chips also have a range of British favourites such as mince pies and figgy pudding if you don’t want to make your own this year too.
Christmas & Spirit
Christmas time means full bellies and boozy afternoons in front of the fire. Although it will almost certainly be too hot for the fire, we suggest you warm yourself with some Christmas spirit just like the one we sold at the Citylife Garden Fair! If, gasp, you didn’t get one from us, then make your own a few weeks in advance. The recipe can be found at copymydinner.wordpess.com, along with a load of other mostly vegetarian recipes that may inspire you this festive season.
Rags & Tags
Dressing up for Christmas is a must, whether you are suited and booted or just warm and cozy in a wooly jumper knitted for you back in the days you lived in cooler climates. As it only comes round once a year there is no need to spend too much on an outfit so why not check out the second hand shops around town. Because, what’s Christmas without an eggnog-stained reindeer jumper!
Late & Light
One of the great things about Thailand is that it is open on Christmas day! If you run out of gin or forget to buy milk — fear not, 7-Eleven has got you covered. Even Rimping and Tops are open so if you need an extra sprig of rosemary, you know where to go.
Make sure you fill your gas canisters and pay your electricity bills so you are not left in the dark. On the other hand candles are very festive. Try Hom Fragrances which sells eco-friendly soy candles at Think Park.
Church & Choir
Lest we forget, Christmas is a Christian celebration, so a trip to church maybe in order for those of you who are religious or just feel you should follow tradition. For the protestant contingent, head down to All Saints Chiang Mai for a very COE type ceremony, or if you are Catholic, then head to Midnight Mass at Sacred Heart and sing your heart out.
Events & Eating Out
If you can’t face doing Christmas this year and just want to let everyone else pamper and feed you, then take your pick from dozens of festive events and Christmas specials our city’s restaurants are offering. Simply go to our events page to find out more.