The majority of people in Thailand identify as Buddhists, making their holiday traditions different than what most North Americans celebrate.
Growing up, Chef Nutcha Phanthoupheng recalls December 25 being a regular work day, though it would launch her preparations for her traditional New Year’s celebration.
“The week leading up to the new year I spend cleaning. That may sound odd to some people, but our tradition is that we clean to be able to welcome good spirits and prosperity into our home for the new year. This is what I did as a child in Thailand, and it’s still what I do now living here in Steveston,” says Chef Nutcha.
New Year’s Day is when the family gathers together to cook, celebrate, and visit the temple. “Going to the temple on January 1, we always have to wear a new dress. It’s symbolic that you wear something new to start the new year,” she notes.”
We always take a gift to offer to the monks at the temple. And it’s always hand-made. Hand-made is more meaningful than buying something for the monks. For us, if our gifts are made by hand, by heart, and by spirit, it will result in greater prosperity for the year ahead. It’s important to feel proud of our effort as we give sincere thanks to Buddha.”
“We believe the more you give in life, the more you get back – and not in material things. It’s our ethos.”
“We believe the more you give in life, the more you get back”
As a child, her gift to take to the temple was a traditional Thai dessert. She would prepare banana coconut sticky rice by harvesting glutinous rice from her family’s rice field, cooking it in fresh coconut milk from coconuts she cut the fresh the tree in her back yard. Then she would pick fresh bananas and banana leaves, and carefully wrap the sticky rice and banana into the banana leaf.
Returning from the temple, she and her mother would prepare a meal, consisting of fresh grilled chicken from her farm, grilled fish that she had caught in the local river, and plants and herbs she had foraged nearby. “Though we didn’t have electricity, or running water, we always made delicious meals to celebrate the incoming year.”
Now living in Canada and with young children of her own, Chef Nutcha has adopted some elements of our Christmas traditions. “My children are young and are excited by the Christmas tree and other decorations have in our home. We have gifts for them to open on December 25, and they believe in Santa, so it’s quite a fun and magical time to see it through their eyes.”
For Christmas at Baan Lao, Chef Nutcha will be preparing her delicious Signature Dinner Experience for guests on December 24 and December 26, though she is taking December 25 off to enjoy with her children.
Open for dinner on New Year’s Eve, Baan Lao will be closing at 10:00 pm to allow Chef Nutcha and the team to go home and prepare for their own traditional Thai celebrations on January 1.
And, yes, she notes, even with her busy schedule at Baan Lao, she will still spend the days from December 25 until New Year’s cleaning her home to welcome the good spirits and invite prosperity for 2022.
Chef Nutcha and her team will be taking a few days off in early January and will reopen on January 8, 2022.
We wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead and look forward to welcoming you to Baan Lao Fine Thai Cuisine.