Expat · Thailand

Loy Kratong is like Thanksgiving, sort of.

I wasn’t even aware that today was Thanksgiving until my friend told me. I’m not sure if this is sad or sublime.  I have a Thai calendar and was mainly focused on Loy Kratong. Thanksgiving here is like Christmas in Hawaii, I’m not feeling it.

And that’s okay.

wat-pan-tao

I always fantasized about having a Norman Rockwell Christmas or Thanksgiving but I’m a first generation American. How could American holidays hold much meaning to my Thai Buddhist mother? Now I wonder, as I am going on my third year here, what meaning do Thai holidays hold for me?

Visually I enjoy how different Thai celebrations are, but I grew up hearing how everything was for “good luck” so that is the extent of my knowledge. Beyond that, I’m not obsessed with them. To me, holidays are habits and habits can be good or bad. Tradition, I view the same way.

Sounds ironic since I want the Norman Rockwell Christmas, but what can I say? I’m a contradiction, as most folks are, but won’t easily admit.

And speaking of contradictions, I have to admit, I never thought about the slaughtering of millions of turkeys for Thanksgiving, thanks TreeHugger.com for the downer. But ironic, isn’t it? When has a tradition outlived it’s purpose?

I think one of the reasons why I like living in Thailand is I’m no longer part of the consumer/rat race/American dream lifestyle. I’m here for a simpler life, which ironically, is challenging to do in the US because it is not mainstream.

I’m also here for the experiences. Thai holidays, whether you like them or not, are experiences.  Experiences in the walking around the wat, or walking up to Doi Suthep or walking in a parade or walking down the street. Street food is affordable, plentiful and entertainment is everywhere (these things accompany holidays here).

And I’m not sure if Thais feel the same pressure to have a “happy holiday” like we do back in the US. Some Thais avoid the crowds, even leave the country like during Songkran, and it’s perfectly understandable. They always say, I’ve been here for 30 years, I’ve seen 30 Songkrans…or something like that.

Loy Kratong is about letting go of past problems, fears, and wishing and hoping for new things and prosperity. It’s about giving thanks for the water, hence the floating of the kratongs down the river. And ironically, Loy Kratong trashes the environment too.

Hmmm. Holidays, holy days…

I think folks who believe expats become more British or more American outside of their country are misled. I just feel more of an anthropologist, studying cultures for my own amusement and pleasure. And not in an armchair-anthropology kind of way, more in a backyard-BBQ kind of way.

Because once I realized it was Thanksgiving, I started thinking, Oh I should cook, and I wish I had an oven. Should we go to a restaurant? Too late! Reservations need to be made, etc, etc. And it’s because my fellow Americans love the food and because we are Americans that we want to do something, but it’s because we are living in Thailand, we just paused for a pep neung lost in our own thinking, and then said, eh, never mind. Mai bpen rai.

“And everyone knows the world is upside down.” Lenka, Sad Song

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