Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Buddha's Birthday Party

So Monday night my family took me to the temple to celebrate Buddha's birthday. Before we went, host grandma taught me to fold flowers.

Imagine an enormous, durable rosebud, the size of my fist, with white petals. We peeled each petal back, folded it into itself once, and then into a point. We did this with all the outer layers until the center showed.

Each of us carried one flower, along with three sticks of incense and a lit candle. We gathered in front of one of the Buddhist temples in Chiang Rai, along with hundreds of our Thai neighbors. We listened to a loudspeaker of what was going on inside, which I was told was the head monk of the temple speaking, followed by the governor of Chiang Rai Province. Then they came out and led a procession around the temple. The older men monks led, followed by two rows of young boy monks, all dressed in the bright orange robes that wrap over one shoulder. Then the governor, his wife and party, and then the crowd of people. We all walked around the temple three times. There was a mix of chanting and singing, and people bowed towards every Buddha statue that we passed on our route.

The air was full of candlelight and a strong smell of incense. It was so surreal to be walking in this large crowd of Thai people, at Buddha's birthday party, and I couldn't help thinking, "how on earth did I get here?" Its one of my favorite things about these crazy cultural experiences... something I would never know to put on my life list, but was so glad I was here to live it.

We finished the walk by putting our still burning incense in large clay pots, pulled our candles out of their holders and melted wax to stick them standing up on the tables on either side of the temple entrance, and added our flowers to the large piles... our birthday presents for Buddha.

We went inside to pay our respects, and then went home to have some dragonfruit. It was a birthday party like no other I've been to!

1 comment:

N and M said...

What an amazing story!