Every year on August 12th Thailand celebrated Mother's Day as a national holiday. It is actually the date of the Queen's birthday, who is considered the mother of the nation. Monday and Tuesday all government offices and schools were closed, and on Tuesday there were celebrations to commemorate the Queen's birthday, and children bowed down to their mothers to show respect and gain their blessing.
I thought this seemed like a big gesture of respect, but didn't realize the gravity of it until today. The school already had 2 days off to observe Mother's Day, but today an additional school day was dedicated to honoring the mothers of the children at the school, and the mother believed to be greatest of all, the Queen.
The gym stage was adorned with the typical ribbon and frills, but this time with a huge photo of the queen in the middle and decorated in all blue, the color of the Queen. Like most formal events in Thailand, the day started with a prayer in Pali by a line of monks on stage. After the prayer the monks walked in a line as students and teachers alike put things from rice and kanoms to toilet paper in their alms bowls, making sure to take our shoes off before giving anything to the monks and carefully remembering woman must never touch the bowl!
The day continued with some more chanting before everyone rose to sing the King and Queen's separate national anthems. The teachers formed a line and one by one curtsied to the permanent photo of the Queen on the wall, signed a book and writing “Long live the Queen” (ทรงพระเจรีญ), and curtsied before returning to our seat. After all the teachers had signed their names, we sang the national anthem one more time, before a group of students performed “Manora” (a traditional dance from the South of Thailand) for all the mothers.
After the entertainment the mothers went up to sit in seats at the front of the room for their children to pay them respect. A couple of students read scripts they had written about how thankful they are to their mothers. The students all bowed down, some giving a corsage of flowers, while their mothers touched their heads and whispered blessings as tears rolled down many of their faces. You could feel the love and gratitude the students and mothers felt for one another.
By this time it had been about 3 hours, so it was time for lunch. Many parents stayed to eat with the students. Then the rest of the classes were cancelled because, well, its Thailand..