Posted on December 27, 2015
Christmas in Cambodia is nothing like Christmas in America. That can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing depending on how you look at it.
I spent the first forty years of my life in western New York where a white Christmas was almost a given. Some years there would be enough snow to cover the ground and other years we had so much snow it had us wishing we lived in Florida. For me a white Christmas was to be expected.
That changed in 2003 when I moved to Hawaii and a green Christmas became the norm. Although different it was something I liked. Going outside and enjoying the sun on December 25th was a refreshing change to the cold, wintery holidays of my past. In the beginning it took a little getting used to and the Christmas spirit took a little more searching but it didn’t take me long to cherish the differences while understanding that most of the world does not get a white Christmas.
This year I would spend my holiday in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Missing is the constant reminders of Christmas on the television. It is virtually impossible to avoid the sense of the holidays while in America – whether you wanted to or not. Decorations, sales, music, trees, lights….and it all starts much too early.
Here in Siem Reap Christmas is subtle and only exists for the tourists. People working in the shops and restaurants wear Santa hats for a week or so before the holiday and there are some special meals here and there to help celebrate Christmas but otherwise this foreign holiday is pretty much hidden away with a little subtlety peeking out now and then.
But I still wanted a bit of Christmas and I was’t sure how I was going to achieve that. I found a small store that stocked some decorations outside and I stopped to look for something to use for a holiday picture. While there I saw stacks of Santa hats and after a few days I figured out what I was going to do.
I am sure most of the people in rural Cambodia have little or no knowledge of Christmas much less how it is celebrated in America. I spent a couple days riding around on my moto looking for random people who looked like they would love to have a Santa hat.
I would find people walking or biking along the road, in their home front stores and restaurants, working or playing in rice fields and pull out the hats which would bring smile to their faces. Often I would stop for one or two people and soon it seemed the whole neighborhood showed up for a hat. Of course the camera came out and I made my pictures.
Surely it wasn’t anything like the holidays in America but it was my way to bring a little bit of Christmas here. Now there are a number of people out in the countryside with these weird red and white hats that came from that white guy riding around on his red moto.
Here are some of the people I got to meet: