Although Burma is a predominantly Buddhist country and therefore does not celebrate Christmas in the traditional Christian way, the commercial aspect of Christmas; Santa Claus, reindeers, presents and food, has a certain dominance that overshadows the religious celebrations of even largely Christian countries.
While many Christians believe these kinds of celebrations detract from what they consider to be the true meaning of Christmas, the act of giving gifts, of selflessness and gratitude, is a very important part of Buddhist teachings.
Compassion towards your fellow men is also a fundamental aspect of Buddhism, which Christmas embodies whole-heartedly in the traditions of Christmas presents, carollers, and the serving of food to others on Christmas Day.
The Nobel laureate will meet Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague during her stay, before addressing Parliament on Thursday.
Ms Suu Kyi will spend today, her 67th birthday, in London and Oxford, the city where she lived in the early 1980s with her late husband, academic Michael Aris and their sons Alexander and Kim,
Tomorrow the Burmese opposition leader, who spent much of the last 21 years under house arrest in her native country, will be presented with an honorary degree by Oxford University and is due to address the Oxford Union.
She arrived in the UK last night from the Republic of Ireland, where she met the president, Michael D Higgins, and U2 singer Bono, who presented her with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience award.
Ms Suu Kyi, on her first visit to Europe in 24 years, apologised after vomiting, saying she was “totally exhausted” from travelling.
“I am not used to the time difference,” she said in Bern after holding talks with Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.
Earlier, the woman known as Burma’s steel butterfly used her first speech on the continent to assert her determination to lead her country.
Speaking to a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on the first working day of her trip, the 67-year old drew applause as she made a pointed correction on her role while travelling abroad.
She said she did not represent the government of Burma, which has faced allegations of using conscript labour in the armed forces and state industries.
Suu Kyi’s party has refused to swear to “safeguard” an army-created constitution in the first sign of tension with the government since a landmark by-election this month saw the democracy icon win a parliamentary seat.
The spat comes as European Union nations are preparing to suspend most sanctions against the impoverished nation for one year to reward a series of dramatic reforms since direct army rule ended last year.
Burma, long-isolated under military dictatorship, has seen a rapid improvement in relations with the international community after the Nobel Peace Prize winner and her party achieved a decisive win in the April 1 polls.
Suu Kyi has shown increased confidence in the reformist government of President Thein Sein in recent weeks, calling for the EU sanctions suspension and planning her first international trip in 24 years.
Thein Sein, who is currently on a visit to Japan, on Monday vowed that he would not backtrack on the country’s democratisation.
To practise politics at its very apex, you have to be amphibious. On Friday, David Willetts, the Universities Minister, was with the Prime Minister in Rangoon, listening to Aung San Suu Kyi speak in the old-fashioned, strictly grammatical English that is the hallmark of many former political prisoners. The Burmese opposition leader is friendly with Ed Llewellyn, the PM’s chief of staff, and the gracious welcome she extended at her modest lakeside home moved and inspired the UK entourage.
Then yesterday, Willetts returned to the domestic fray and the row over charitable donations – a row that embraces the higher education sector for which he is responsible. Universities are among the most clamorous of the many organisations and institutions claiming – as 46 such charities do in a letter to today’s Sunday Telegraph – that the £50,000 cap on donations which can be written off against tax will be “a brake on philanthropy that may deter future donors” and “is confusing and dispiriting”.
In an article for The Sunday Telegraph, the Prime Minister says the UK ignored key trading partners such as Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia for too long, and that he needed to “put things right.”
His trip – which also saw him become the first Western leader to meet Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma since her release by the country’s ruling military regime – has attracted charges of travelling out of personal vanity.
Mr Cameron has been likened to Tony Blair amid claims he is spending too long out of the country chasing photo-opportunities while voters face a series of problems back home, many of them traced back to last month’s Budget.
However, the Prime Minister describes the countries he visited as “powerhouses of the world economy” and insists he was right to lead the “most high-powered British business delegation ever to visit the region”.
“I’ve not been afraid to put myself on the front line of the sales pitch for British business and encouraging investment into the UK,” he writes, citing a number of deals done with Asian companies that will boost jobs at home.
The Prime Minister secured a historic deal that will see the fighter aircraft dug up and shipped back to the UK almost 67 years after they were hidden more than 40-feet below ground amid fears of a Japanese occupation.
The gesture came as Mr Cameron became the first Western leader to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy campaigner held under house arrest for 22 years by the military regime, and invited her to visit London in her first trip abroad for 24 years.
He called on Europe to suspend its ban on trade with Burma now that it was showing “prospects for change” following Miss Suu Kyi’s election to parliament in a sweeping electoral victory earlier this year.
The plight of the buried aircraft came to Mr Cameron’s attention at the behest of a farmer from Scunthorpe, North Lincs, who is responsible for locating them at a former RAF base using radar imaging technology.
David Cundall, 62, spent 15 years doggedly searching for the Mk II planes, an exercise that involved 12 trips to Burma and cost him more than £130,000.