The big day(s) for exchanging gifts in Thailand is New Years. I went to a party on New Years Eve at the home of the director of English teachers in Nongkhai area 2. She invited Faith and me to have dinner with her extended family. When we got there we saw the table of gifts and asked if there was an exchange. I think we were supposed to know it would happen, it is so normal for Thais. We quickly went to a store and bought gifts. They were beautifully wrapped and back we went.
Each gift/giver receives a number. There is a list where that is recorded. The gift gets a tag with the number. Sutheeporn chose the youngest child to start and he picked my number, 15 (from a bowl of folded papers, so it’s random). I went and got my gift and gave it to him, with pictures taken. Then, it was my turn and I picked number 9. The person who brought that gift got it from the table and gave it to me and the process continues until all the gifts are given. NO ONE opens his or her gift. They laugh and say thank you and enjoy each person getting their gift.
At both schools on Wednesday, we had another gift exchange. Same procedure. At one school students and teachers exchanged together, at the other it was a big lunch/party for the staff at 4 schools and the village leaders. There, we also took breaks and danced and sang Karaoke. It is a nice tradition that seems to focus on being together, having fun and the gift exchange is just a small part of it that provides excitement and a process.
Table of gifts and Sutheeporn at her house on New Year's eve
Faith receiving her gift
Table of gifts at Ban Tha school
Trying to do the Thai dancing with Paaw Wanit