Christmas, for me, has always been about family. In my 37 years on this earth, there has not been a single Christmas spent without at least one of my parents and a gaggle of aunts and uncles. Knowing that this Christmas, with my family on the other side of the world, would be difficult, I set out to make it as special as possible for Jesse, Christian and myself.
Jesse and Christian decided to go mountain biking on Christmas Day which left me with ample time to go into Chiang Mai city and exercise my Santa skills. Fortunately for me, the Thais love their shopping malls and I had spotted at least three across town, and those were only the ones that I saw. Also lucky for me – Thailand is a Buddhist country which meant that all of these malls, and numerous other shopping venues, would be wide open on Christmas Day. There was also a healthy presence of Western culture which meant that, despite Buddhism being the national religion, I’d spied a few different places around town that were sporting pretty solid holiday decorations in their windows.
So after a Christmas Day viewing of Finding Nemo (because why not?), I headed out to Samudlanna stationary store in the northwestern part of town and did some serious damage in their decorations department. After picking up a mini tree, cards, wrapping paper, garlands, and wreaths galore, I headed to the Maya shopping center where some Santa hats, stockings, and stocking stuffers were added to the loot.
When I got back to the AirBnB, I immediately set out to deck the halls with all that I had. The tree was set up, tables and gifts were wrapped, and the stockings were hung by the * ahem * basic Airbnb office furniture with care. The plan was for Jesse and Christian to pick up a Christmas day feast at the market on their way home from mountain biking, so by the time I got the heads up that they were headed back, the apartment was loaded with all the Christmas cheer a backpacker’s budget could buy.
I sat back and began watching Star Trek (because what better Christmas gift can I give myself than the gift of Chris Pine) and waited for the boys to return home. When they arrived home, not only was I greeted with hugs and thanks for making a special Christmas so far from home but I was also met with one of the more intense and varied Christmas meals I’d ever experienced. Bags upon bags were pulled out, filled with everything from standard Thai fare like papaya salads and larb to northern Thai staples like nom prik and spicy sausages that I had only just discovered. While it was different from the standard turkey and stuffing that three of us were accustomed to, it was incredibly tasty nonetheless.
And it was in that moment, as the three of us eagerly chowed down in the standard communal Thai way while enjoying the festive decorations that I realized yes, I missed my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and our crazy tradition of baking cookies and watching cheesy movies. But I was also incredibly lucky to be able to spend Christmas with loved ones, even this far away from home. And while the tinsel and the tree and the stockings helped make it feel a little cozier, all I needed were the three of us, gathered around a table joking, laughing, and me kicking the guys’ ass in poker.