November 23, 2013 8:23:25 PM
BANGKOK -- Christmas is not a holiday in predominantly Buddhist Thailand, and its palm trees outnumber pines, but the country still set a world record with its holiday spirit.
One of the country's largest shopping malls arranged a publicity stunt involving 852 schoolchildren dressed in green and red hoodies to break the Guinness World Record for the largest human Christmas tree. They outdid a German record of 672 participants in 2011.
To the relief of parents, and the chagrin of a few teenagers, the children were not hoisted onto a human pyramid shaped like a conifer.
It was more an exercise in crowd control, grouping the assembled 6- to 15-year-olds into a tree-like formation on the ground.
"I kind of thought we'd get to stand on each other's shoulders," said 13-year-old Nattakit Liewkulnattana. Like most participants at the event, he doesn't celebrate Christmas. He wasn't sure whose birthday the holiday marks ("Santa Claus?") but was excited to take part in a world record, and maybe get something in return.
"I want presents!" the teen said. All participants got to keep their hoodies.
The record was set in 15 minutes, 29 seconds.
Guinness representative Fortuna Burke certified the feat, counting on a clicker as children filed onto an outdoor verandah at Siam Paragon mall, the event's organizer. Once in place, the children waved as a drone flew overhead to capture aerial images.
Although Christmas does not appear on Thai calendars and is a regular workday, hotels and shopping malls decorate starting in mid-November for what is a big shopping season during Thailand's peak tourism months.
Thais also set other off-beat records this year. On Valentine's Day, a couple set a record for longest kiss (58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds). Also in February, nearly 4,483 people swung hula hoops for seven minutes, a record for the most people dancing with hula hoops simultaneously in one place.