Strangers in a Strange Land
Christmas in Thailand

Although we're not entirely into the "Christmas Miracle," our family has always considered Christmas a very special—perhaps the most special holiday of the year, right up there with Halloween, our birthdays and three day weekends that make four days off.

So being the only people in our corner of Bangkok who are ready to party and sit around waiting for the jolly fat man to cometh, while all our Thai friends and neighbors are wondering what the hell we're up to was a real education for all of us.

The Mason-Slaughter adventurers around Sorn and Da's Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve.

It's not that Bangkok is totally remiss when it comes to Christmas. In fact, the merchants have discovered the retail advantages of yet another shopper's holiday, and the manager of our small hotel and the owner of our favorite cafe both put up plastic Christmas trees, decorated with tinsel and lights and smiled a lot on Christmas Eve in an effort to make us feel less homesick.

For us the problems of Christmas are particularly strange. We have little money to buy each other gifts, and no room in our packs to haul things. Our answer to this was to each make a solemn vow to not get into the buying frenzy, and instead to make a gift or provide a service to each other. Somehow, once we'd made this promise, the spirit of Christmas seemed more real—like it's supposed to be we each thought.

Christmas Eve we dressed in our best, went to Sorn's for a nice dinner, exchanged gifts with he and Da, asked the only other two farangs to join us (Eric was from the Netherlands, and he told us how he and his family had always left their shoes outside the door for St. Nicholas to fill with candy and treats, and a young Australian traveler whose experiences were more like our own—buying frenzies).

After dinner we four returned to our hotel room. Selecting one of each of our own cleanest socks, we hung these from the metal grating of our window. Cassidy's gift to all of us was to do a dramatic reading of O Henry's classic short story, "The Gift," and then it was off to bed.

In the morning we awoke, wishing each other Merry Christmas and wondering about the weirdness of an outside temperature in the 80s. We each looked in our socks, and indeed, Santa had been here too, coming in the early morning hours and leaving candy, toothbrushes and for each a small and special gift of love.

Christmas in Bangkok may be strange and lacking the snow, the carols, the parades and steaming turkey. But it certainly wasn't lacking in love and the spirit of the season.

Merry Christmas to All....