Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve In Isaan

It is now Christmas Eve in Isaan.

Christmas comes early to Thailand - due to the International Date Line.

I got motivated yesterday and decided to share a little of my past and culture with Duang, my Lao Loum wife. I decided to make a traditional Christmas dinner for us, a task made all that more difficult because we live in Isaan. There are many alternatives and substitutions required to recreate an American tradition here.

First of all there is no hoping or wondering if there will be a White Christmas. It does not snow here in Isaan in fact when it does get "cold" here it is more likely to be around 65 to 70F.

Secondly, there are not very many Christians here in Isaan. Like the rest of Thailand 95% of the people are Buddhists. Despite the small number of Christians, ther are Christmas decorations in the malls and many of the businesses. Christmas music is also played in the shopping malls at this time of the year. The overall effect is to provide a flavor of the holiday without the craziness of the season in America. Yesterday we went to the Mall to try to pick up some last minute items for tomorrow's dinner. The Mall was not crowded at all. We were unable to find everything that we need for dinner - items like white wine, pork sausage for stuffing, bread cubes for stuffing, yams, and dates for special Christmas cookies.

Today we drove to another store to see if we could complete our list. At the French based grocery store, we found a bottle of Gewurztraminer - a product of Thailand. I could not find a Wine Spectator rating for 2006 Knight Black Horse wine - no matter the case I am just thankful to find a bottle of white wine. It will be used in the stuffing as well as in the gravy. Whatever is left over we will hopefully enjoy drinking with our meal. I could not find any typical pork sausage so I will substitute some English Breakfast Sausages that I had in the freezer. There were no dates so the stuffed Christmas cookies have figs substituted for the dates. I found some sweet potatoes to substitute for yams in making candied yams. Duang pointed out several worm holes in the 5 remaining potatoes so we will have steamed carrots instead. There is no point in getting upset or stressed in not finding everything to have a traditional celebration. This is Isaan and not America. I am thankful to be able to enjoy the day with my wife and be able to give her a little glimpse into my heritage.

Tonight as I started this blog, I got a phone call from Bangkok. A very good friend of mine from my last job in Thailand and a friend of Duang's called to wish me a Merry Christmas. Just as back in the USA, it is the best wishes of family and friends that truly makes the holiday special.

Today we baked Christmas cookies all afternoon long. Tomorrow we will bring the cookies to our Grandson, Peelawat, and the other children in Tahsang Village. They don't celebrate Christmas or even know about its significance but being children I am certain that they will enjoy the sweet treats. Of course their parents and grandparents can enjoy them too - there will be plenty for all.

When I was divorced and had custody of my two sons, I always made cookies and a traditional meal to celebrate Christmas. That was a long time ago and far away so now the tradition will continue for my new family here in Isaan.

So tonight will be low key and relaxing for us here in Isaan. There are no gifts to wrap. There are no private or family parties for us to attend. There are no wagons, bicycles or hot wheels to assemble. Duang and I will just lounge around and wind down from our long afternoon of baking as well as cleaning. There are drinking pavilions set up along with performing stages set up in downtown Udonthani across from the Mall. They will be open starting tonight until the New Year.

Perhaps New Years Eve, we will check it out but Christmas Eve, for me, is for family and quiet reflection.

Merry Christmas.

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