Many people wonder to what extent Christmas and New Years Eve are celebrate in Thailand. While we have a few special festive activities this year at Expique, here we share our guide to what else is going on in Bangkok.
Thailand is frequently referred to as a Buddhist country, yet there is in fact no official state religion. While around 95% of Thais are Buddhist, Thailand has plenty of religious diversity (as we showcase on our Diversity & Harmony walking tour), with almost a 4% Muslim population and around 0.7% Christians, mostly Catholics. The official Thai new years is actually in April.
Despite this, while Christmas is not widely celebrated, especially in the most commercial parts of Bangkok and tourist destinations, Christmas usually gets a significant amount of attention and New Years Eve is widely celebrate across the country. However, in 2016 due to the mourning for the late King, festivities and decorations are likely to be toned down a little and many organisations delayed announcing their exact plans. Festivities will go on but please be respectful and remember the country is still in mourning.
December is among the busiest months of Thailand’s peak tourist season, and with that comes plenty of opportunity to dress the capital up with familiar Christmas decorations. Bangkok’s infamous high-end, sky-scraping shopping centres and luxury hotels sprout Christmas trees and fairy lights that become an attraction of their own – you could easily take a walking tour just to decide which mall has the best display!
Around the central Siam area, Siam Paragon, CentralWorld and MBK are among the malls to hit for a Christmas tree selfie, while hotels that impress each year include the Grand Hyatt Erawan, the Four Seasons and the InterContinental.
This year, while the country is in mourning, a lot of the decorations will be white as people stay away from brighter colors.
For Christmas shopping, while this may not be Frankfurt, a number of Christmas markets set up offering festive homewares, food and gifts. Each year there are more than ever before! Among the markets taking place in the lead-up to Christmas in 2016 include: Tribes Christmas Market (Dec 15-19. Sukhumvit Soi 65); WEIHNACHTSMARKT (Dec 17 at Goethe Institut); The Knack Market (Dec 26, The Jam Factory). For more winter markets read here
What is Christmas without overdoing it on the food and drink front? Bangkok delivers on this front too, and you certainly won’t go hungry for festive fare. If staying at an international hotel in Bangkok, you are likely to come across popular gala buffet dinners for both Christmas and New Year – in many cases compulsory if you want to make a booking at that time of year. They might be just what you are looking for in terms of a ready-made package of familiar celebrations, but they can also be pricey. Here are details of some of the options.
Many of Bangkok’s international restaurants put on a lower-key Christmas spread that could be the perfect alternative if you still want to mark Christmas Day with a traditional meal. Try The Robin Hood on Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 (BTS Phrom Phong) for British fare, Bourbon Street on Sukhumvit Soi 63 (BTS Ekkamai) or Roadhouse BBQ on Rama 4 Road (BTS Sala Daeng/MRT Silom) for an American take, or Bei Otto on Sukhumvit Soi 20 (BTS Phrom Phong) for a German Christmas. For drinks, CentralWorld shopping centre makes the most of the cooler winter weather and puts on a popular beer garden just outside its front door on Ratchaprasong Road before, during and after Christmas; beer gardens also pop up all over other parts of Bangkok.
Expique will even be hosting a casual Christmas Day Potluck! Check out all Expique’s Christmas activities here.
Meanwhile, if you are looking to stay somewhere that won’t force a gala dinner on you, check out our list of unique places to stay in Bangkok, where it is much less likely you will encounter this.
Bangkok has its share of Christian churches, and if you are looking for a religious service to attend on Christmas Day – or just want to take a wander around a church in the festive season – you won’t have trouble finding one. After several years of restoration, Assumption Church is now open again, and is worth a visit over Christmas. Sunday services are held at Santa Cruz Catholic church, which our Diversity & Harmony tour visits, at 6am and 6pm. The Holy Redeemer Church, on Soi Ruamrudee in Phloen Chit, performs mass daily in English and Thai, with four services in each language on a Sunday, while the English-speaking Anglican Christ Church on Silom’s Convent Road has Sunday services at 7.30am and 10am.
Expique has a whole range of activities going on to help you celebrate Christmas in Bangkok. From traditional Christmas potluck dinners to talks on Thai Culture, and from Christmas Day walks to Christmas Tuk Tuk Tours – we’ve got the lot! Check out all our Christmas activities here.
This year celebrations will be a lot more subdued. Read more about New Years Eve in Bangkok.
Have you celebrated Christmas in Bangkok? What are your favourite festive activities in the Thai capital?
(CentralWorld photo by Kazuhiro Nakamura; outdoor Christmas scene photo by Eric Molina; calendar photo by Syeefa Jay; roast turkey photo by Dan Germain; Santa Cruz photo by Chris Wotton)