Christmas isn't a traditional holiday in Thailand but it's getting more and more popular, especially in Bangkok. Thailand is primarily a Buddhist country and though there is a small minority of Christians, most of the holiday revelry is purely secular. Most Thai families do not celebrate Christmas with a tree and gift giving on the 25th of December, but many do acknowledge the holiday, or at least the holiday season, in other ways. Lucky for visitors and foreign residents, that means that in Bangkok you won't feel too far from home when December rolls around.
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Enjoy the Christmas Decorations
Every large mall in the city will be decking its halls in time for Christmas. If you're in central Bangkok in December, you can do a little walking (or Skytrain riding) tour of some of the best-decorated ones. Central World, the massive shopping mall in the Ratchaprasong area, has an equally humungous Christmas tree in the front plaza area that's covered in lights. With the open beer gardens just next door, it's a great place to have a drink, listen to some live (and very loud) music, and do some people watching as you enjoy the atmosphere. Inside the mall, there are also plenty of Christmas decorations to enjoy, including another large Christmas installation inside the mall's seven-story atrium. Diagonally across the street on Rama I Road is Amarin Plaza, which also puts out impressive Christmas decorations.
Paragon Mall, just a couple of Skytrain stops away, decorates their plaza with lots of lights, Christmas trees and other traditional holiday animals and scenes.... MBK Mall, a short walk from Paragon, is also known for its outdoor Christmas decorations, which often end up scaling the side of the mall. Check it out, it's always a lot of fun!
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Fairy Lights in Dusit
Though the fairy lights around the Chitralada Palace weren't put there to celebrate Christmas, they are enchanting and beautiful and worth a look. Take a walk around the neighborhood (don't get too close to the palace itself though, or the armed guards may take issue with you) in the evening, and then head over to the Grand Palace compound to view the buildings lit up at night there, too.
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This list of places to celebrate Christmas in Bangkok is a good place to start making plans. Many of the city's five-star hotels, including the Peninsula, The Oriental and other fancy hotels on the river are having gala dinners on Christmas Eve and buffets for Christmas day. It doesn't have to be that fancy, though, and many of the city's pubs also do holiday dinners that are much less expensive and more casual.
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If you have children and you'll be in Bangkok over Christmas or in the weeks running up to the holiday, you'll probably be hoping to find Santa. The good news is that he does make his way to Southeast Asia every year and can be spotted at various family and children's events. Check the BKK Kids Facebook page for information about specific events around the city. You'll also find Santa at some of the larger or higher end malls in the city but make sure to call or have your concierge call to confirm when he will be there.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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One Christmas activity Bangkok excels at year round is shopping! Find out what you need to know about it in this Guide to Bangkok Shopping. Christmas isn't just about shopping but just about every big retailer in Thailand will be running promotions and holiday sales so you might as well take advantage! Nearly every mall offers gift wrapping services year round, too, so if you're buying gifts to take home make your life a little easier by getting them wrapped in advance (and if you're worried about customs inspectors not being able to see what you are bringing into the country, the gift wrappers can leave one side open so the items can be inspected without ruining the wrapping job).