The great feast of a Thai family
We had nice days on Koh Lanta and we traveled to Phuket again. But why? For a very special reason: We were invited to attend the most important family celebration of a young man. A monk celebration.
Most of you had probably been to a confirmation or communion before. At that time I could not imagine what a big celebration it was for a Buddhist family, because it went on for two days. It was not only very loud, but also accompanied by many tears. We are so grateful to have been a part of it and are happy to take you with us.
A young man becomes a monk
At the harbour of the ferry in Phuket where Andi picked us up. He is an old friend of Alf. He has been living in Thailand for more than ten years now and is in a relationship with a Thai woman named Lai. The whole monk celebration was about her son Ben. Ben became a monk in two separate ceremonies. This means that he was accepted into the community and lived after their order rules.
As a buddhist novice you want to become a monk. They already live according to very similar rules like these in monasteries and most of them are still in close contact with their parents or live with them.
In some ways, the life of novices differs from that of monks. Novices do not yet eat with monks in the monastery. They are also not present when the rules of the order are read out. Moreover, they do not confess.
Only after one or two years does a novice become a monk through the consecration of a monk. For this he must be at least 20 years old.
Children’s festival in Rawei at Phuket
After we put our luggage in Andi’s house, we drove to a local children’s party. The community organized it. For the children there was a lot of different games and a tombola with many presents. Here we were warmly welcomed and were allowed to eat at the fruit buffet. It was nice for us to see how much fun the children had and that the whole neighbourhood came together. Already there we were confronted with the exaggerated loudness. Huge loudspeakers were stacked on top of each other in the corner. The Thais don’t seem to care about that.
The gifts were handed over by a member of the city council. After this we went on to the community centre. Since the morning everything was prepared for the special day. The whole family and friends of Lei were busy cooking the food and setting up the tables. We felt immediately comfortable and welcomed. The food was unfortunately not for us, because there was nothing without meat or fish. It was no problem for us because we had eaten before. Even if it is a consecration to a monk, that does not mean that vegetarian food is served.
Preparations for the monk celebration
The first time we saw traditional dancers and musicians was at this monk celebration. Lai specially invited them to accompany the ceremony. Before they danced, they got a rich meal.
Before Ben was consecrated there were a lot of preparations to do. A very important part of it was the shaving of the head and therefore the monk beginning to cut a part of Ben’s hair. Afterwards he handed over the scissors to the festival society. They closed their hands to a “Wei” to Ben and cut off a part of his head hair.
Hair is a sign of beauty and is associated with vanity. To get rid of your hair means getting rid of your ego. I was invited to take part and to shave Bens head. Honestly it was hard for me, because it was so unusual. But I learned how open and hospitable the Thai families are.Now the next step followed. The monk took over again and shaved a part with a shaver.
Ben lost his eyebrows
Shearing was now the task of Ben’s close relatives and yes, also the eyebrows belong to it. If you had seen the long mane, it’s really impressive that he didn’t have a single hair on his head afterwards. With it he proved his will to enter the religious order.
Then he washed his head and put on white clothes.
The golden crown could not be missing and an important step towards the monk was made. He walked through the rows and greeted and thanked his guests. Lai and he collected money gifts in envelopes. For this reason a family can afford such a celebration at all. Such a monk celebration is only possible with the support of the community.
A bright family celebration
In the evening the other dancers came to the place. These were sea nomads and are called “Sea Gypsys”. They wore eye-catching orange clothes and danced a synchronous foot dance. One of them sang along and it was typically unnaturally loud again because of the stereo speakers. Then they sat down on chairs in a half circle and we danced in front of them.
Although I didn’t like to dance, there was no excuse for me. I got private lessons in circling my hips. As you can see on the pictures, this was not only a lot of fun for the outsiders. With the heat and sultriness the party became very exhausting. We wanted to be good guests and participated in everything.
The day after the monk celebration
It was early in the morning and both of us were more than tired after the monk celebration. The official part of the monk consecration will be continued at 7 am. The consecration to a monk in the temple was about to take place. By the way, the celebration lasted until 5 am. The Thais are tough. We looked like living dead due to less sleep . The Thais in contrast were not only styled. You cannot even tell they’ve been sleeping only two hours.