Cambodians catch the Christmas spirit

In one Phomn Penh shopping mall, teenagers get into the holiday.

– Far beneath the spires of Buddhist pagodas, the streets of Phnom Penh are now adorned with blow-up Santas, flashing ice-blue lights, and sparkly "Merry Christmas" banners. But it is not so much Christmas itself that has gripped Cambodians. It's the Christmas sale.

As Cambodia's economy has grown, so too has the nation's fascination with this most Western of holidays.

Employees at Phnom Penh's favorite mall, the Sorya shopping center, donned fuzzy red and white Santa hats this week.

"We love Christmas. It's cool," says Kol Chanbo, assistant manager of a Phnom Penh ice cream store, who was clad in a red-and-white Santa hat. "I want to play under the snow one day, too."

Neup Chan Thavy, manager of an electronics store, says sales typically surge by 20 percent during the month of December. Most of the shopping is done by foreigners and Cambodian teenagers who got the idea that Christmas is about love and that love is, at least in part, about shopping.

CityMart sporting goods store clerk Sao Chila says the store's business picks up around this time of year. "I think Christmas is good, because all over the world they celebrate it," she says. Even though she's Buddhist, she buys her friends Christmas presents because the holiday represents love. "We just want to share our love with each other," she says, smiling.

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