You may wonder why the year's about to turn 2549, but that's what it's going to be for most people in Thailand. The year 2549 is the Buddhist year, at least according to the Thais, counting from the year Buddha died, or reached nippan (nirvana). In Thailand most people are Buddhists, or secular but officially Buddhists anyway, and so from this coming Jan. 1 onward the year will be 2549! The old Thai new year, occurring in April to coincide with the Hindu Holi Festival, is no longer regarded as a time when the year counter gets incremented (speaking like a computer scientist). However, in the North of the country it is still a serious event for celebration and for visiting older relatives. When I was about 3 years old my parents took me up north to see my grandparents and other relatives. After I poured Thai perfume on my grandfather's hands, a tradition up there, he gave me a blessing, wishing that I do well in my studies. I promptly replied that I wouldn't study anything! For information on old Thai New Year, now taken to be on April 13 and no longer regarded as the time when the year changes, see http://www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/rites_of_songkran.html. Having read that piece I realized how much I didn't know about it! (Note that I don't necessary affirm the complete accuracy of information on anyone else's Web site in any case. Even my own most certainly has mistakes!) New Year's in Thailand is now just the international one, January 1st. See http://www.thaiworldview.com/feast/eve.htm. Here is an interesting point on that Web site: Most Thais don't celebrate Christmas. That's because most Thais aren't Christians! But equally interesting is the statement, "In Bangkok during Christmas, shopping centers are decorated with trees and snow." I find this very curious, especially when they also play Christmas music, sometimes not in accordance with good adult musical taste (e.g., sung by The Chipmunks).
This snow scene was taken a few days before Christmas. The weather subsequently warmed up significantly, melting much of the snow! In Pocatello it is quite possible to have a White Halloween or Thanksgiving but not a White Christmas! In fact the summer before we moved here in 1995 it snowed in July!