Elephant Santas pass out face masks, hand gel in Thai school tradition

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Elephants in Thailand wearing Santa hats and surgical masks distributed hand gel, masks and balloons to students at a school’s annual meeting Christmas, a twist of the COVID era on a 15-year tradition in the predominantly Buddhist country.

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

The celebration at Jirasartwitthaya School in Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, has been going on for over 15 years and has been particularly significant over the past two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its virtual learning and blockages.

“We know that students are stressed because of online lessons, so we hope this event can make them happy and encourage them to come to school,” said event organizer Reangrhongbaht Meepan from Ayutthaya Elephant Palace.

Thailand is 98% Buddhist, but celebrates Christmas as part of the holiday season. (REUTERS / Soe Zeya Tun)

Thai schools closed schools again in April this year and rolled out vaccinations to high school students in October, before phased reopens and alternate attendance days.

As of Friday, only 30% of classrooms were full in Jirasartwitthaya. “I’m so happy to have received a balloon from the elephant. My heart is beating very fast, ”said student Biuon Greham, as other children took photos and selfies with elephants, Thailand’s national animal.

Thailand is 98% Buddhist, but celebrates Christmas as part of the holiday season.

Coronavirus cases in Thailand peaked in August this year, with 2.2 million total infections so far and 21,501 deaths.

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