Every year the village of Ban Tha Rae (Thailand) celebrates the Feast of the Nativity (Birth of Christ) with a Christmas Star Parade Festival (ประวัติแห่ดาวท่าแร่). The parade and celebrations are organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of Tha Rae-Nong Saeng, which covers an area of 4 provinces: Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Kalasin and Mukdahan. All provinces contribute to the more than 20 floats that appear in this Thailand Christmas parade.
The Christmas Star Parade consists of floats with huge, colorful star ornaments, and a beautiful nativity cave scene placed in front of the star. The star symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the three wise men (magi) to Jesus’s nativity.
The Star Parade Festival occurs every year on Dec. 23rd or 24th. It starts at Nong Han Lake, and then heads down the main highway that parallels the village, before turning down toward St. Michael’s Cathedral. Women and men dressed in Christmas attire ride the floats, many of whom have candy that they toss to children.
The Christmas Star floats are then parked in a large, open festival area, where visitors can view the floats more closely. According to the Archdiocese, this Star Parade is not only unique within Thailand; it is the only one of its kind in the entire world. There is also a nativity play and dancing performances held in the festival area from the 23rd -25th.
Several years ago there was a special floating procession of Christmas Star floats on Nong Han Lake, symbolizing that time in 1884 when a French missionary led the Vietnamese Catholic community from their downtown Sakon Nakhon location to Ban Tha Rae. They placed rafts on Nong Han Lake (the largest freshwater lake in Northeast Thailand), not knowing where they would end up. They simply prayed to the Archangel Michael, and the winds and fate led them to what would become Ban Tha Rae.
In addition to the Christmas Star Parade Festival, visitors can enjoy viewing the Christmas lights that adorn the homes of all the villagers of Ban Tha Rae (the largest Catholic community in Thailand). One could spend several hours wandering the alleys, looking at the Sakon Nakhon Christmas lights, and sampling Thai food from dozens of vendors. The architecture of many of the homes are unusual for Thailand, having been influenced by Vietnamese and European colonial designs.
If you plan on visiting Ban Tha Rae (Sakon Nakhon) to view the Christmas Star Parade, the traffic gets much worse the closer you get to the parade start time, which is shortly after sunset. So we would recommend arriving in Ban Tha Rae at least 30 minutes before sunset, or 5:30 pm. Drive toward St. Michael’s Cathedral and you should be able to find a private lot to park in for about 50 baht.