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Do They Celebrate Christmas in Thailand? (How & Where)

Do They Celebrate Christmas in Thailand? (How & Where)

christmas in thailand

Before packing your bag for a Christmas holiday in Thailand, you might want to know how the Thai even celebrate Christmas. While the birthday of Jesus is a time of joy and celebration, not every country does it the same way. Some countries might not even acknowledge Christmas, to begin with.

Despite being a Buddhist country, Thailand does celebrate Christmas. However, the Thai celebrations might differ from traditions. Instead of church services, roasted turkey, and socks for Santa – they opt to enjoy a fun time with friends and family and visit festivals in the city.

But what are there to see during this time? Where in Thailand should you go to get the best experience? Read on and discover a bright and colorful Christmas story in Thailand.

Do They Celebrate Christmas in Thailand?

A traffic controller dressed as Santa in the center of Bangkok

Even though most of the population is Buddhist, Thailand sees massive investment in Christmas celebrations throughout the country — just like in the west. The difference is that the celebrations focus less on the religious aspect of the day and more on a fun and festive atmosphere.

From late November to early January of the following year, you can see fancy bulbs and other ornaments lighting the streets in various colors. Many stores and shopping malls decorate their place with Christmas trees and Santa statues. You can even see people dressed as Santa giving away items. Christmas is by no means a small event in Thailand.

However, most Thais consider Christmas a part of the New Year holiday. This means the traditional and spiritual Christmas celebration is not that common.

On this important day in the west, you might see people go to church, attend special services, or go caroling from house to house. Those are rare sights to see in Thailand. 

But that does not mean they do not exist at all. All churches in the country hold special services like candle lighting and bible study. Many Christians also sing Christmas carols and perform other rituals.

The rest of the population spends their time having fun. Teenagers would attend one of the many festivals around the city and hang out with their friends. Other age groups would stay with their family and enjoy special meals together.

Present exchanges might happen here and there, but people usually save them for the New Year. To the Thais, the New Year is way more important than Christmas. Many people skip Christmas entirely and wait for the big New Year event. That is why you might not hear as many Christmas discussions as you expect. 

Nevertheless, the spirit of Christmas still persists in Thailand. And like everything else in this country, Christmas had to start somewhere. Here is what you might find interesting about Christmas origin in Thailand.

How Did Christmas Enter Thailand?

The origin of Christmas in Thailand can be traced back to the days of the Ayutthaya kingdom (1351-1767). (Source)

While Buddhism had already laid a firm foundation in Thailand, the Thai also welcomed other teachings into the country. And in the 16th century, during the reign of King Ramathibodi II, Christianity finally found its way into the kingdom. (Source)

The first European nation to officially come in contact with Thailand was Portugal. Like other Europeans during the age of exploration, the Portuguese came to establish a new trade site and supply source. So, the relationship between the two countries was driven by merchants.

And among the merchants, there were also Catholic missionaries. (Source)

These missionaries came into Ayutthaya to build churches and schools. They spread the teaching of Jesus and the existence of God to all people in the Kingdom. And that was where Christmas culture came in.

However, Christianity in Thailand has never taken off at all. This might be due to the firm grip of Buddhism on the people’s hearts. None of the kings in Thai history has strayed away from Buddhism, so most Thai followed their leaders’ example.

In 2018, there were ​​767,624 Thai Christians, only 1.13% of the total population. (Source)

But recently, Christmas-themed events and festivals have grown grander and grander in Thailand — especially in Bangkok. This trend stems from the private sector trying to capitalize on this special day. You can find numerous Christmas-related promotions and discounts from all kinds of shops, attracting clients of all ages.

Although Christmas is becoming more lively, the spiritual side of the day remains insignificant. Do not expect your Christmas trip to Thailand to be religious. What you can expect, however, is a great time to fill your stomach with all kinds of food.

Check out “Why Was Thailand Not Colonized?” to learn how Thailand avoided colonization from any European country.

What Do They Eat at Christmas in Thailand?

Korean-style Barbeque in Thailand

For Thai people, food is a big deal. 

If you have tried Thai food before, you would understand how much the Thai pay attention to their delicate recipes and ingredients. But when it comes to Christmas, Thai people seem to reject the original menus entirely and enjoy food in their own way.

When you think of Christmas, the first menu popping up in your mind is stuffed Turkey, correct?

In Thailand, however, you can forget about it. Most traditional Christmas dishes like Turkey and pies are rare despite the occasion. Yes, you can still find them. But it will take you some search, and the price will be steep compared to other food.

Nowadays, Thai people celebrate anything with Korean-style Barbeque regardless of the season. That means they would go to Korean BBQ stores even on Christmas. 

The appeal of these stores is they are designed for festivity. You can enjoy conversation while waiting for the meat to be cooked. You can eat as much as you like (as long as you can pay). And most importantly, you can feast with a big group of friends and family. Hence Korean BBQ’s popularity.

If the Thais want a more fancy Christmas dinner, they might opt for classy western dishes (for the Tais) like expensive steak and pasta. Other than that, Japanese and Chinese food is always an option.

For a westerner like you, these menus might sound out of place. However, these are what the Thai enjoy in their fun time. Give it a chance. You might like it too.

Check out “Do Thai People Use Chopsticks?” to learn what utensils are most commonly used to eat in Thailand.

Best Places to Visit during Christmas in Thailand

Now. You might wonder, if Christmas in Thailand is so different, where do the locals usually go? What are there to see?

Well. Here are the lists of places you can go during Christmas in Thailand.

3 Thai churches to visit during Christmas

Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Chanthaburi

Even though the number of Christian in Thailand is small, there are impressive churches you might want to visit on this joyous occasion. Every church here should hold one Christmas service or another on this day. So, seek them out.

1. Cathedral of Immaculate Conception Chanthaburi

If you are a true fan of Thailand and a catholic, this place is a must-go. After all, this is the biggest cathedral in the country.

It is located in Chanthaburi, a province in the eastern region. This massive structure was first built in 1,711. Multiple renovations, relocations, and reconstructions took place before it became what it is today. (Source)

If you are looking for the best catholic church to visit during your Christmas trip to Thailand, this is a perfect place.

Address:110, Soi 1 MU 10, Chanthanimit, Mueang Chanthaburi District, Chanthaburi 22000
Phone:+66 39 311 578
Opening Hours:9AM – 12PM, 1PM – 3PM (Mon – Fri)
9AM – 12PM, 1PM – 5PM (Sat)
12PM – 5PM (Sun)
Directions:(View on Map)

2. Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady

If you are not a fan of massive buildings and are looking for a more delicate-looking church, this cathedral is another option.

Located in Samut Songkhram, this catholic cathedral is a perfect destination if your trip already has Amphawa Floating Market as a stop. It was built in 1980 by a French missionary. Hence the French Gothic architecture.

This marvelous structure might look stunning from the outside, but its true beauty lies within. Beside the statue of Jesus, the stained glass window and the ceiling structure accentuate the sacred atmosphere even further. (Source)

So, give the Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady a visit if you pass by Samut Songkhram this Christmas.

Address:Moo 7, Bang Nok Kwaek, Bang Khonthi District, Samut Songkhram 75120
Opening Hours:8AM – 5PM (Tue – Sun)
Directions:(View on Map)

3. St Michael’s Church, Songyae

Looking for a more rustic and archaic church for your Christmas? This place is your best choice; it is the largest wooden Catholic church in Thailand.

Constructed in 1947, this church stands at Songyae, Yasothon. The whole building was made of hardwood the locals compiled and worked on themself. Since it was built by Thai people, the architecture has a touch of traditional Thai elements — especially on the exterior.

The number of pillars supporting the structure is staggering. It is said that the locals used 360 logs to make all the pillars in this building. And it has lasted more than a hundred years. (Source)

Address:Ban Nong Song Yae, Mu 2, Tambon Kham Toei, Thai Charoen District, Yasothon 35120
Phone:+66 4571 8211 or +66 86 488 0861
Directions:(View on Map)

3 Shopping malls to visit on Christmas in Bangkok

ICONSIAM Shopping Mall

If your Christmas trip to Thailand is not for faith but for fun, Bangkok is the best place for you to be. Loads of shopping malls are in Bangkok. And shopping malls are where the fun happens.

In Thailand, Illuminations (or light exhibitions) are the main attractions during Christmas. Here are 3 shopping malls with the best illuminations from Christmas 2021.

1. ICONSIAM

In a Thai shopping mall discussion, you cannot omit ICONSIAM. This massive shopping complex is the second biggest mall in the country (after Central West Gate) — sizing around 525,000 square meters with more than 1,000 stores inside. Its opening was in 2018, so it is relatively new too.

The Bangkok Illumination 2021 At ICONSIAM event was as grand and glorious as the mall’s size. The fact that the event was held on the Chao Phraya riverside made it look even more impressive.

The theme of the illumination was not Christmas itself but an “Endless Celebration” for New Year. However, you can still see 3 Thai-pagoda-style Christmas trees with a height of 22 meters. (Source)

The chance that they will do another illumination event this year is high. So if you are unsure of where to go on your Christmas night, ICONSIAM is among the best choices.

Address:299 Charoen Nakhon Rd, Khlong Ton Sai, Khlong San, Bangkok 10600
Phone:+66 02 495 7080
Opening Hours:10AM – 10PM (Mon – Sun)
Directions:(View on Map)

2. Central World

Central is Thailand’s biggest department store chain. It has 39 branches around the country, or around 1 branch in every 2 provinces. And among those branches is Central World.

Despite being smaller than ICONSIAM, Central World still sports an area of 429,000 square meters. And to boast the prestige of its brand, it had a 40-meter tall Christmas tree in its illumination site.

The event’s name was “Light Up Christmas Tree Celebration 2022.” It was a perfect destination to spend your Christmas night. You could have fun taking photos, enjoying the music, and bragging about it on social media. (Source)

Address:4 4/1-4/2 Rama I Rd, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
Phone:+66 026 407 000
Opening Hours:10AM – 10PM (Mon – Sun)
Directions:(View on Map)

3. Samyan Mitrtown

Samyan Mitrtown is located in one of the most crowded shopping areas of Thailand, Siam (written like Siam, the former name of Thailand).

It has a 24/7 opening hour as its selling point. You can walk into this mall at any time of the day.

The 222,000-square meter size is nothing comparable to the previous two, but it still has its own charm of simplicity. The illumination it held, “Samyan Mitrtown Celebrate Life New Year 2022,” sticks to its simplistic vibe. However, it also has a stand of its own.

Unlike the previous two, Samyan Mitrtown has a tunnel connecting it to the underground train station, the MRT. In this tunnel, they decorated the place with a Christmas theme for you to snap pictures. This place also had a giant Christmas tree at the front door for those who prefer something more traditional. (Source) (Source)

Address:944/1 Rama IV Road, Wangmai, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Phone:+66 020 338 900
Opening Hours:10AM – 10PM (Mon – Sun)
Directions:(View on Map)

Attention party goers!

Enjoying a Christmas party in Sugar Club Bangkok

If you are a party type, you will enjoy Christmas in Thailand. You can hop into pretty much any bar — especially in Bangkok. The owners will decorate their place with all things Christmas, from Santa to Christmas tree to reindeer.

Some places might even invite big-name artists of the year to organize a small concert. You can definitely have a great time drinking.

Check out our “Nightlife in Bangkok” guide on where to party in Bangkok at Christmas. (Or anytime for that matter!)

Christmas in Thailand as a Whole

There might be a couple of aspects about Christmas in Thailand you find odd, but you cannot deny that it has the same fun spirit as in the west. The spiritual element might be pale in comparison, but you can still find it if you search the right place.

All in all, you can definitely have fun in Thailand during Christmas. 

So no need to worry. Pack your luggage and book those flights to Thailand for this Christmas. You might even enjoy it more here.

Want to know more about Thailand in general? Stay with ThaiGuider. You might learn something you never knew about this unique country.

Jordan Sully

I'm a Thailand fanatic who has been traveling to the Kingdom since 2017. The country has given me so much, this is my small way of giving back. I hope the articles on this site help you to learn more about Thailand and inspire your next adventure to The Land of Smiles. Thanks for checking out ThaiGuider!

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