Open these 3 links to see thumbnails of all of the photos
Most of my students are Karen and they celebrate the new year according to a lunar schedule. This year that was on the evening of Dec 24/25, better known as Christmas to most of my readers. Out here Christmas is celebrated on a different day, apparently the 29th this year. That may seem strange, but the Dutch celebrate it on the 5th, so I've come to accept the confusion.
Karen new year is a celebration of Karen culture. Each week I drive to Kaw Tha Blay to teach computers, and on the 100km drive I pass Mae La Refugee Camp, a guarded city of bamboo and leaves with ~50,000 residents. This year it was hosting some of the Karen New Year celebration so I was (more or less) allowed in to watch the students sing and dance.
At sunrise they raise a massive bamboo sculpture
Mae La isn't just Karen. Its a city of 50k people. Muslims, Christians, Animists and Buddhists. No metal or concrete, all structures must be bamboo and leaf. No jobs, but quite a few schools. When the ceremony was over, I went off in my santa hat, to pass out candy to kids.
For quite a while I helped a monk practice his english, while letting the novices play games on my phone until the batteries needed reincarnation.