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.
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.