Elephant Santas give out face masks and hand gel to pupils in Thailand

·2-min read
Mahouts and their elephants pose for children during Christmas celebrations at the Jirasart Witthaya school in Ayutthaya on 24 December 2021  (AFP via Getty Images)
Mahouts and their elephants pose for children during Christmas celebrations at the Jirasart Witthaya school in Ayutthaya on 24 December 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

Elephants in Thailand wearing face coverings and Santa hats have been giving out hand gel, masks and balloons to school pupils, putting a Covid twist on their annual Christmas party.

Each year, elephants from the Royal Elephant Palace in Ayutthaya are dressed up in Father Christmas costumes and visit children at the Jirasatwittaya elementary school to perform and hand out presents.

“I’m so excited because an event like this only happens once a year and I think my school is the only place with elephant Santas,” said elementary school student, Beyapha Mhonsuwan.

Elephants and their mahouts dressed as Santa Claus hand out balloons, hand sanitizer and other small gifts to schoolchildren (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Elephants and their mahouts dressed as Santa Claus hand out balloons, hand sanitizer and other small gifts to schoolchildren (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The celebration at the Jirasartwitthaya school in Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, has run for more than 15 years.

The gathering has become especially important in light of the events of the past year, which has seen normal life give way to lockdowns and virtual learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We know students have been stressed because of online classes, so we are hoping this event can make them happy and encourage them to come to school,” said the event’s organiser, Reangrhongbaht Meepan from the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace.

Thai schools closed schools again in April this year and rolled out vaccinations for high school students in October, ahead of staggered reopenings and alternating days of attendance

On Friday, only 30 per cent of classrooms were filled at Jirasartwitthaya.

“I’m so glad that I got a balloon from the elephant. My heart is pounding very fast,” said student Biuon Greham, as other children took photos and selfies with the elephants, Thailand’s national animal.

Thailand is 98 per cent Buddhist, but it celebrates Christmas as part of the year-end holiday season.

Coronavirus cases peaked in August in Thailand, which has seen 2.2 million total infections and 21,501 deaths.

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