Christmas greetings from Phnom Penh

Happy Christmas, everyone!

This is the tenth time I’ve spent Christmas outside Australia. Two of those were when I lived in the US with my family as a teenager, but still, I’ve only been home for Christmas three times in my eleven years as an expat in Asia. I’m quite used to it. I miss being there when my family gather together, but it doesn’t feel too strange. Still, one nice thing about moving to Australia is knowing I’ll be at family events for the next three years.

This year I am celebrating Christmas with friends in Cambodia; it is the fourth country I’ve spent Christmas in. Christmas is celebrated differently everywhere, especially when one considers the difference between the religious observation and the secular celebration. The export of western culture via mass media means that many places with only a small minority of Christians have adopted some of the consumer trappings of Christmas.

When I first arrived in China there was very little evidence of Christmas. Some of the western style cafes had some lights, maybe a few Christmas carols. A year or two later I was introduced to the “Christmas market” – the second floor of a flower market tucked away on a small street that you would never notice unless you knew it was there. But in the next few years Christmas began to take over public spaces. These days Beijing is full of lights and tinsel and Santas and other decorations, and Christmas carols are played in many public spaces. It’s all a consumer celebration, of course. Chinese Christians tend to place more emphasis on Christmas Eve, called 平安夜 [píng ān yè] which literally means “peace eve” and is also the phrase used in translating the Christmas carol “Silent Night”. The word 平 has the same pronunciation as the word for apple so a traditional gift is an apple wrapped in coloured paper – I’ve received at least one most years.

While this is the first year I’ve been in Cambodia for Christmas, I’ve visited in early Janaury quite a few times. There is a lot of consumer Christmas here too – lights and decorations and music. But there’s also something fun I’ve not seen elsewhere: tinsel trees. Lots of businesses tape strings of tinsel to glass windows and doors in the shape of Christmas trees. Every year they seem to get more elaborate in size, shape, and decoration. They started as simple outlines (and many still are) but there are some very elaborate uses of tinsel flying around! I think it’s really quite clever, and some of them are really very nice.

Christmas decorations in Phnom Penh

Christmas decorations in Phnom Penh

I’m going to finish this off with some of my favourite Christmas song videos, just for fun! These are my favourites to watch, not just listen to. Enjoy!

Angels We Have Heard On High by The Piano Guys (four guys on one piano and a beautiful arrangement to boot)

Straight No Chaser performed this great arrangement of the 12 Days of Christmas in 1998.
And here is the updated performance ten years later!

I also love their song Christmas Can-Can.
And here’s a Christmas light display set to the song.

Here’s a similar arrangement of the 12 Days of Christmas by Storm Front, a barbershop quarter, that is very fun to watch.

An oldie but a goodie – Mr Bean conducts God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

Northpoint’s hilarious Les Miserables Christmas

There are lots of versions of the Silent Monks’ Hallelujah Chorus, and I like this one from Shadow Hills Baptist

Shawnee Mission East High School Varsity Choir singing and dancing a fun take on Deck The Halls

All I Want For Christmas Is You – by Oxford a capella group Out Of The Blue

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