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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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Column: What I’ll miss most about an Irish Christmas

The 12 pubs, the annual soap catch-up and the post-dinner snooze – Simon Growney will be thinking longingly of them in Thailand.

Simon Growney

I AM AN English teacher living in the Southern Thai province of Songkhla and have been since late August 2012. The initial culture shock has dissolved and the “new job” smell has wafted away. Teaching and living here has become my way of life. Songkhla is a modest fishing town towards the Malaysian border on the South. The town is very un-Westernised and far from a tourist hot spot (those postcard images of Thailand with its neon lights and full moon parties). The lack of Western influence is most notable in the distinct lack of Christmas cheer and festivities, which is obviously fair enough (do we celebrate the Buddha’s Birthday?)

Due to the extreme heat, the busy nature of Thai schools and not having any Western TV, it’s easy to forget about Christmas  over here. The only reminders of Christmas are strictly confined to the virtual village of Facebook. That’s not to say I won’t miss it. With two nephews below three years of age (and a new niece whose birth in August I sadly missed by a week) the man in the red suit will most definitely be coming to the Growney household this year. As a precaution, my family threw a Christmas day dinner in my honor. Music, decorations, turkey, no expense was spared! The credibility of this faux Christmas has genuinely made me feel that Christmas has already happened and that I won’t be missing anything.

Working on Christmas Day

Alas, I have to do something to celebrate JC’s birthday, regardless of where I am. So what’s in store? Well, the Irish bar in the neighbourhood threw a Christmas party a few weeks ago – all were welcome – and there was various entertainment and an obligatory Christmas dinner. As for the sacred day itself, I’ll be in school at 7am doing the morning greeting to the students (of all the days, ho ho ho indeed). Perhaps it will be then when it will hit me, as I stand at the school gates on Christmas morning. Neither in a red suit or handing out gifts. Stood here perspiring profusely in the morning sun (much to the amusement of the children).

What will I miss the most in these moments? It goes without saying that the new infants in my life will be missed the most – in a family where the youngest is 23, it has given us all an excuse to re-live the magic. Next on the list, the annual (and often dreaded) 12 pubs of Christmas Eve. The 12 pubs is not necessarily a phenomenon restricted to the town of Bray, but perhaps it was perfected there. ‘Tis a magical night on December 24, for many friends, old and new to re-acquaint. The vow never to partake again (taken between 8 and 9 am every Christmas Day) will soon be forgotten.

Shocker

Two more things spring to mind. The annual catch-up with the soaps. As I watch only once a year, my parents do a great job of summarising a whole year’s events during the theme music/opening credits. The the big Christmas shocker never failing to leave me stunned, eager to see what happens in next year’s episode.

Last but not least, the bliss that is the post-dinner snooze. Scientifically, it’s not known what gives rise to the satisfaction of the post dinner snooze. My theory is that it is an extreme physical and emotional comedown. All the hype, the frantic hunt for gifts, the 12 pubs hangover, the 5,000 calories for dinner – it all ceases to matter now. All problems drift away in the time-space enigma that is Christmas Day. Perhaps I will miss it after all.

I can only say that at 30-years-old, maybe I’ve started to take the Irish Christmas for granted. It’s a strengthening resolve that I must make Christmas 2013 the best one yet. Happy Christmas from Thailand everyone, and raise a glass for your countrymen overseas.

Read: Christmas squee! Kids help to paint Dublin bookshop window>

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Simon Growney

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