In my small Thailand picture album I have some photos from the recent Chinese New Year. This was a new and unique experience for me, having not celebrated it in the past. My Thai Mother is half-Chinese half Thai. Beautiful wedding photos of her and my Thai father decorate the walls of my home. Their love is one of endurance and patience, a true model for anyone. Anyhow, since she is half Chinese, the holiday holds obvious reasons for importance.
I began one of my Sundays by waking up at six o’clock in the morning, as usual. We waited by the curbside to feed the Monks that accept food offerings, then Pi-Ning took me over to her husband’s parents house where the children were playing. Their house was this wonderfully quaint piece of property located just off the roadside. In the front was a gorgeous weeping willow amidst their family restaurant. They welcomed me as a guest and walked me back to a table of food, which resembled an offering to Buddha, I believe. My language skills thus far are not as developed as I would like them so my interpretation of this holiday is slightly off. Nonetheless, it is interesting to share my anecdotal/outside experience of this wonderful holiday. There is a supply of incense sticks that one lights as we approached the table. At that point you bow your head in prayer for thanks then place your incense stick into one of the food items. It appeared as thought it had a dual purpose. It not only showed gratitude and thanks, but the smoke put off by the incense protected the food from bugs. I was then led back into a small room with a display of images of the King and Buddhas. Before entered, we removed our shoes and lit another stick of incense. This time it was slightly more ceremonial. After placing our incense in a cup, we wai-ed the altar and got down on our knees. After bowing, we touched our heads to the floor three times. Pi-Ning muttered a Thai/Buddhist prayer that I was unable to distinguish. When we finished we stood up, put our shoes back on headed to the front of the house.
Shortly thereafter, I drove with Paaw and May (literally translated as Mom and Dad) to May’s sisters’ house. That is right plural in one house. Interestingly, community and family is so important that family often live in the same house together. A woman around the age of eight-five kindly greeted me at the front of the house. I was promptly given a light snack, fruit, and some cold water. The rest of my day was just as welcoming. I was able to visit a large Wat nearby and give my thanks to Buddha for all the he has given us. If you note the photo in my album with tall, red sticks and numbers on them, those are lucky number sticks. Tradition has it that if you shake the canister back and forth until the first stick falls out, that stick and corresponding number are your lucky number for the year. I drew a 21 and was eager to read my fortune. Unfortunately, it was all in Thai! So this young lady will first have to improve her Thai language reading abilities before I unlock the mystery of my new year’s secrets. No worries, however, I carry the slip of paper with me, should I find that one day I can magically read all 44 Thai consonants and 21 vowels.