Christmas in Cambodia
Christmas in Cambodia is just another workday but more and more Cambodians are embracing the holiday spirit.
This is my second Christmas in Cambodia. In 2015, Becks and I celebrated Christmas here and she’s back this year with her boyfriend, Caelum.
Back in 2015, Becks and I found a small artificial tree and decorated it with silk ornaments from the market. We also found some pretty garlands at Mekong quilts that we strung up around the apartment.
Becky took that tree home so she could have one for college. This year so I bought a couple of stockings at the WIG Christmas Fair (see below) and I put a few small Christmas tree table decorations around the room.
Back in 2015 few stores had Christmas items. Lucky supermarket had some candy canes and Christmas cookies and IBC sold Christmas decorations. And, some of the Christmas decorations were downright scary. I remember a Cambodian dad trying to get a photo of his kid in front of the most evil-looking Santa statue I’ve ever seen in front of Lucky Market. Poor kid was bawling and who could blame him.
Things have changed quite a bit since 2015. Christmas lights abound and stores and coffee shops have Christmas music playing. Children visit Santa at the Mall and in the stores. Many of the restaurants and hotels in town are hosting fancy (and quite expensive) dinners. There are even whole stores of Christmas decorations.
A few things remain the same. Bella Voce, a community choir, gave a wonderful concert this year at the Intercontinental Hotel.
The Intercontinental Hotel always makes a giant gingerbread house. This year it was a working windmill.
In late November, the Women’s International Group (WIG) hosted their annual Christmas fair. It’s a great place to pick up gifts and find out what NGOs are doing. They have painting, clowns and Santa for the kids and musical performances as well. I did a lot of my Christmas shopping there this year and discovered a new art class that I’ll have to try the next time I’m in Siem Reap. This year there was another group doing a Christmas fair but it was near the airport so didn’t make that one. I’d already spent my money at the WIG fair anyway.
A few weeks ago, I had some Cambodian families over to make Christmas cookies. I had to hunt a bit to find cookie cutters but I did eventually find them. The kids were so excited. We made Swedish Christmas Cookies, Gingerbread men and sugar cookies. The kids were so sugared up they didn’t finish making all their cookies so we had plenty left for Becks and Caelum. I tried doing Facebook live (one friend tuned in) but it didn’t post.
Becks and Caelum arrived on the 20th (at 11 PM). We spent the first day hitting the shops and just spending time together. It’s so good to see family after 6 months apart. Of course we went to see the new Star Wars movie as well. Over the next couple of days Becks and Caelum hit up Russian Market and did some sight seeing around Phnom Penh.
On Christmas eve, we did some last minute shopping at IBC. I was surprised to find they added gift wrapping, a Santa and a clown to their Christmas services. I’m pretty sure the clown was playing Santa at Aeon Mall just a few days earlier.
Christmas in Cambodia is still just another workday here – Cambodia is a Buddhist country – but I’m taking the day off. We had some gingerbread pancakes and opened presents this morning. There’s a turkey roasting in my oven for the Maryknoll dinner and we’ll pop in some cauliflower to roast. We’re also bringing cookies, homemade croissants, gingerbread and a Kahlua cream pumpkin torte.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Interested in other Cambodian Holidays?
Here’s a post on the Water Festival