Christmas in Cambodia

More than 95% of the population in Cambodia is buddhist, and it’s the national religion, so Christmas is something Cambodians don’t celebrate. No holidays, no Christmas trees or decoration, no family gatherings or church visits. Anyway it’s difficult to get that Christmas feeling when there is a clear blue sky and temperatures are around 30 degrees, but for Cambodians December 25 and 26 are days like all others. Except here in Phnom Penh. There are so many expats in the city, and certainly in the part where we live, that Christmas starts to become something special, visibly present. The appartment buildings where most expats live have Christmas decorations in front of the building. The shops try, with more or less success, to show it’s Christmas time.

By now Cambodians who work with foreigners understand that Christmas is a special moment, although they don’t really get it. Regularly I’m asked “What are you doing for happy merry Christmas?” What???
Well, the (British/American/Australian) commerce has made clear that there is something about ‘happy Christmas’ or ‘merry Christmas’. The fact that you wish that to someone, and it’s not the name of the event itself, isn’t clear yet, that you usually don’t combine the two adjectives even less. By now I’ve understood that the real question is whether or not I’ll be working at these days or will take leave. I don’t know yet.

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