The country of Thailand is about 95% Buddhist, so Buddhism heavily influences every day life. Many activities take place at the local Wat (temple) and there are always many Buddhist ceremonies taking place to celebrate different events. One of the most common celebrations here are monk ordinations. This is not surprising considering most men in Thailand becoming a monk at some point in there life, even if only for a few months, or just a week. Usually the night before the ordination ceremony there is a big party for the monk, where a lot of delicious food is served, music is blasting to the point of sending vibrations through your entire body, and, if its very big, there are dancers. The monk also shaves his head to prepare for his service. The next day is the actual ceremony, but there is a lot that is still to come before the ceremony is complete.
Here is a little look at one I went to a few days ago:
In the morning everyone met up at the house of the soon to be monk. Everyone ate breakfast and relaxed, until the music started. At this one, the monk sat in a chair in the middle of the road while ladies circled around him dancing. This lasted about 15 minutes.
After this we headed to a Wat for the official ceremony. We all crowded tightly into pick-up trucks (about 7 people in the truck and 8 people in the bed of the truck) so I thought we would just be going up the road. Little did I know we were travelling about an hour away to a much bigger Wat. After driving about an hour, we all got out of the truck at the beginning of a long road. No Wat was in sight… but that’s because we were going to DANCE all the way to the Wat!
So we danced.. all the way to the Wat.. 2 HOURS… At noon… during the hotest month in Thailand. (It is so hot here that when I asked one of the students what she likes to do for fun, she told me she likes to “ab-naam,” which means to bathe.. That has quickly become one of my favorite things to do here too.)
But, no one seemed to mind dancing in the heat. We all had our straw hats and were throwing water on each other anyway. Plus, we were followed by a cart of blasting speakers to energize us with some Thai pop tunes. Once we reached the Wat we lined up out side the entrance.
The monk led the line, sitting upon one of the men’s shoulders. Everyone followed him into the Wat and walked around it 3 times.
After the third time around the monk stopped to bow in front of the Wat with incense and a lotus flower.
Lastly, before entering the Wat, the monk threw wrapped money into the crowd, while everyone scrambled to collect as much as they could.
The monk entered the temple to complete the ceremony, but the dancing was done, so the crowd was ready to leave. We piled back into the pick-up and drove the hour home, sweaty and tired. Once I got home I took a long nap (my second favorite things to do here!)