We’ve been lucky enough to receive invitations for the two biggest and arguably most important celebrated events in life: marriage and death.
Last week, we attended the one year funeral celebration of a fellow teacher’s late husband. Professor Eahd’s husband died a year ago, and, in keeping with Buddhist tradition, we attended the celebration at the temple to honor his life.
As fellow teacher explained, the day’s celebration was only one of many. According to tradition, once someone passes away the family celebrates by gathering for a feast and games each night for almost a week following the death. Monks may come to the home during the day to chant and pray for the safe passage of the deceased. Then, celebrations are held again on the seventh, fiftieth and one-hundredth day after the death. On the one year anniversary of their death, another celebration is held (precisely the one we attended), complete with praying and chanting from local monks, blessings and gifts to the deceased via a wonderfully decorated shrine, complete with incense, flowers, photographs and an offering of food as well. We listened to the chanting and to the sermon-esque speech from one particularly wise monk (it’s funny, even in an unknown language, the feeling of his message, through his tone and through the atmosphere in the temple, was still understood). Finally a meal is offered to the monks for their services and to the guests. For what Thai event is complete without a feast? I think I should want the same– for friends and family to get together, celebrate and eat!
A week later our entire office again ventured to a feasting celebration. This time the wedding of our colleague and native-Japanese teacher, Yukari. The sweet demure Japanese girl married a local Thai gentleman at his hometown just north of Nakhon. On Friday afternoon, we loaded into vans and headed for the wedding. We couldn’t make the actual ceremony since traditionally, Thais head to the temple early-early in the morning for a blessing from monks, then retire at the woman’s house for the reception and party. This particular party was held at the groom’s abode on his family’s orchard in the gorgeous coastal countryside on the Gulf of Thailand. We arrived, completed the obligatory photo-barrage, then dined on delicious meats and cakes in an outdoor tent with plenty of local friends, including very close Japanese friends and family of Yukari, Thai neighbors and other various merry-makers. It seems, unlike weddings in America where most attendees are limited to invitation-only, Thai weddings are like an open block party. People show up, invitation or not. They socialize, eat, dance, listen to and play music.
Simple but welcoming.
As for wedding number two? Well, it’s for another Thai teacher in our department, forthcoming in about a month. More photos and Thai ceremonial details to come.