Celebrating Holidays in a Foreign Land
January 2024
By Dadai Rubia, a member of SEND Thailand | Asia

In our 
21 years of being a missionary, we have seen and experienced various cultural and religious holidays in our host countries. We initially served in China for 11 years then moved back to the Philippines in 2014, before moving to Thailand in August of 2022. 

Thai family visit

One of the holidays our family looks forward to celebrating is Christmas. In the Philippines, this holiday is such a big deal, with fellow Filipinos putting up their Christmas trees as early as September. My family and I were used to celebrating Pasko (i.e. Christmas in Filipino) with plenty of food, games, laughter, and family gatherings. 

First Holiday Away From Home 

When we were in China, we learned that the Chinese celebrate Christmas like a trend or a fun activity as they view it more like a western cultural thing. Since family and food are at the core of Filipino Christmas celebrations, we decided to bring this part of our culture by inviting local friends, and even strangers, and cooked food for them!  

We blended a lot of Chinese and Filipino flavors, and it was a wonderful way of starting conversations with the Chinese locals. They were often amazed with our flavor combinations that used more sweets, and we had the most fun with gift exchanges. Above all, it was the perfect opportunity to share with them about the significance of the birth of Christ, and what this holiday truly meant. 

When Chinese New Year came, it was our turn to be invited by our local friends. Our anticipation grew not only for the festivities but also for the chance to strengthen the bonds within our community. The diverse array of invitations we received allowed us to immerse ourselves in the rich tapestry of traditions that make that time of year special for each family.  

Adapting to a New Culture 

When we moved to Thailand, we learned about the unique traditions of Thai and Shan people, especially in their Christmas and New year celebrations. They don’t really celebrate Christmas, but they love going to the malls to savor the fun and enjoy the Christmas music.  

Most Shan people cannot travel to the neighboring city because they don’t have IDs, so we take this as an opportunity to visit their families with our gifts to establish relationships with them. We invite them to our house to try our Filipino delicacies and experience our own Christmas tradition.

Thai Christmas Party

Thai and Shan people have their own New Year, but they do celebrate New Year after Christmas with food and fireworks.  During their New Year, most of them will go back to their hometown to celebrate with their families. We are blessed if we are invited to their New Year celebration because this means we are family to them. 

Connections and Christ Conversations 

These festive times provide an excellent opportunity to share the message of our Lord Jesus, making the holidays not just about celebration but also about fostering deeper connections. In essence, the holidays for us are a harmonious blend of tradition, connection, shared spirituality, and the joy of sharing Jesus' love with our community. It's a time when our homes become an extension of our hearts, not only welcoming in the festive spirit but also radiating the warmth of genuine human connection.

As we eagerly anticipate the upcoming festivities, we do so with the profound understanding that these moments extend beyond creating memoriesthey are about nurturing the vibrant community that makes this season truly special.

In the spirit of the season, we found meaningful opportunities to share the love of Jesus, embracing the true essence of Christmas by spreading goodwill, compassion, and the message of hope within our neighborhood. The act of sharing Jesus' love has become an integral part of our holiday celebrationswhether it’s ours or theirs, adding depth and purpose to the joyous fusion of traditions and connections we create.

You can be part of this fulfilling work! Learn more about SEND’s teams in Asia.
Explore Asia


Subscribe now to stay up to date on all our recent posts, right to your inbox!

Connect with SEND

Start your missions journey by chatting with a SEND Coach.


Sign up for Explore, our monthly newsletter to help you discover your role in missions.