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Korat Christmas
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By Tomm Larson

It was hot.

Nights were always hot in Thailand, even Christmas Eve. Still, it was Christmas Eve, and we managed to find a few scarves and stocking caps to wear as we went caroling. Our family went caroling every Christmas Eve. We stepped out into the warm night and walked to our neighbors' house across the compound.

We had moved to Thailand six months before. My father had accepted two years of temporary duty at Camp Friendship, a military base shared by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, and the Thai army. We lived in a small compound of Americans and other foreigners in Korat, the town next to Camp Friendship and several hours "up country" from Bangkok.

Most Thais are Buddhists -- so there were very few Christmas decorations around Korat. There were some in our compound. The Peterson's and the Smith's had a few lights strung out on their balconies, and almost everyone in the compound had put a Christmas tree in their window. As we started singing, the holiday spirit filled the air, even without icicles and snowmen and frosty breath.

We walked over to the Peterson's' and sang "Silent Night" for them. Dad and Jim sang bass, Kimball sang tenor, Connie and Ede and I sang soprano, Cindy and Sherry sang alto. And Mom stayed home to open the door for Santa since we didn't have a chimney.

Santa always came while we were out caroling. We would visit several neighbors and friends and sing "Silent Night" and "The First Noel", or "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem", and then we would end with "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". When we got home presents would be spread all over the living room and spill into the kitchen.

The Carlton's was the last house in the compound. We had sung for everyone else. After we finished "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" we almost ran home. We walked into our bungalow to find just a few small gifts under the tree. Most of our Christmas presents were coming by boat, and wouldn't arrive until April.

Not one of us felt disappointed.

We had already felt the joy of the season. Without the toys, the joy was still there, and it was easy to think of new and different ways to celebrate the holidays.

That year, we spent more time sharing and playing with each other. We put more time and thought into helping the less fortunate. We enjoyed explaining Christmas to our Thai neighbors. We took more time to reflect upon the "wondrous little Savior".

We loved every minute of it. We all remember it as the best Christmas we had together. Santa had found us in a strange place clear across the ocean, and brought us a lesson in love.
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