An elephant dressed in a Santa Claus costume distributes a doll to students during Christmas celebrations at Jirasart school in Ayutthaya, Thailand, December 22, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
AYUTTHAYA, Thailand (Reuters) – Elephants dressed as Santa Claus gave out presents and candy to students in Thailand in an annual Christmas tradition in the mostly Buddhist country.
The Christmas celebration at the Jirasartwitthaya school in Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, has run for 15 years.
This year four elephants and their mahouts, also wearing Santa hats, visited the school and gave away presents to the students, said Lardthongtare Meepan, owner of the Ayuttahaya Elephant Palace, an elephant camp.
“The highlight is not only handing out presents, but also students and elephants are forming a Christmas tree together,” he said.
The elephants danced and showed off tricks to students.
“I’m very happy to see them and they are very cute. I love elephants because it dances very cute,” says Patcharamon Sukpiromsunti, a primary school student.
The elephant is Thailand’s national animal and appears throughout history and literature.
“It makes me feel like I have a lot of friends. The elephants handing out candies, toys, dolls and so many other things,” student Pasitha Sithapak said.
Thailand is 98% Buddhist, but celebrates Christmas as part of the year-end holiday season.
Reporting by Artorn Pookasook and Jiraporn Kuhakan, Writing by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Michael Perry