It is Friday and the day of the Festival has arrived. The decorations and offerings are set out and the students are all dressed in white. As we eat our breakfast, guests start arriving. Jarm has already explained the seating, by heirachy…so we know where our place is…at the back!
This is the first time Joy’s House has hosted such a ceremony and whilst everyone is very calm, you can feel a slight tension in air as everyone is on their best behaviour and making sure all of the appropriate ettiquettes are being used. The purpose of the Festival is three-fold…firstly, community leaders are blessing the house, to keep the bad spirits away and invite the good in…this involves a long sermon/prayer from the local leader and his wife, followed by the lighting of incence. The incence sticks are then stuck into all of the decorations and offerings on the table, the leader, Joy, the elder members of the community, then the students all take their turn…we also are invited to place some of the sticks in…the smell is intense, the ends are hot and the smoke in your eyes is acrid, but it is very nice to be asked to be included, so we do our best, it is actually harder than it looks as the sticks are thin and not sharp on the ends…but I do my best!
Obviously, I have no clue what is actually being said, so my time during the prayer is spent looking at the different members in attendance and trying to guess who they might be. My attention is drawn to the painted fingernails of the local leaders daughter. They are very bright blue, red and white and appear to have stripes and stars on them. I tried to get a picture, but she didn’t keep her hands up for long enough…so afterward I asked her if I could take a photo, she was happy to oblige.
The second part of the Festival was aimed at raising funds for the local temple whichis in the process of being rebuilt. Yesterday, we had made some flowers to decorate a donation tree. Envelopes were also passed around for those who wanted some anonimity or were being particularly generous. I added our contribution to the tree.
After some time, the monks arrived. They were here for the third part of the Festival, the blessing of a new baby…kind of a Christening…the baby, Hona is Joy’s Grand-daughter. She looked very small, perhaps only a few weeks old and was very well behaved, sleeping through the whole thing. After her part was done, the monks continued their blessings…during which we left to go on our arranged sight-seeing for the day.
All that I thought before coming to Thailand about monks was thrown out the window today…they arrived in a minibus, they sat up an cushions on tables, they took photos on their ipads and phones and answered their phones and talked during the christening and they didn’t all have close shaven heads. Though when it came to reciting the scripture/prayer, they were very much insync with each other and the rhythmic tones was very soothing.