Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spring festivals....

Yesterday while walking, I listened to Joseph Campbell tapes. One of my favorites is his talk on spring holidays throughout the world and the mythology that surrounds them.

One thing that seems consistent is that regardless of the religion, everyone celebrates spring.

It is such a spectacular time with all the blooming flowers, the color, the warmth of the air. It is a rebirth of nature, coming out of its fallow time. As humans, we are part of nature. Something within us renews as well and we have a desire to celebrate that.

I am a person who has had a hard time learning to celebrate. It just didn't seem to be a part of my life up until a few years ago when I felt the desire to bring that into my life in some meaningful way.

I chose Thai celebrations as a guideline. Thai celebrations acknowledge the cycles of nature. Like every culture, the celebrations are designed to fit Thai history and Thai life in general. There are celebrations of rice and water, celebrations of historical events, celebrations of time. (Songkran is actually the solar new year.) Since I seem to have a strong pagan inclination, the idea of celebrating the cycles of nature comes easily to me. It's not something I have to force myself to do.

I have a habit of taking established celebrations and reconfiguring them into my own style. It's not likely that will change when I am a permanent resident of Thailand.

Songkran, as an example, is basically a 3-day street party with much drinking, water-throwing, reveling and dancing in the street. The water-throwing makes some sense since this is the hottest season in Thailand and the water is refreshing. In some ways, it becomes a celebration of the rainy season to come.

I'm far too reserved to spray people with water on the street. I have a natural aversion to rowdy behavior. Always have. The noise and the crowds would send me under the bed for a month afterward. Additionally, since I am not yet living in Thailand, I'd probably be arrested for doing that here. :)

So, I decided to "reconfigure" Songkran, to make it into a quiet, private celebration of the elements and renewal. There are many customs in the tradition that make it possible to do that without polluting it or watering it down (pun unintended).

Songkran, like Easter, is a celebration of renewal. People traditionally clean their homes, throwing away old or useless items. It's believed that to keep old and useless things will bring bad luck to the owner.

Religious items are cleaned. Young(er) people pour scented water into the hands of elders and parents as a sign of respect and seek the blessings of their elders. In ancient days, people would actually bathe the elders and provide them with new clothing as a token of respect for the new year.

Obviously, I have never bathed anyone older than me and dressed them in new clothing. That's something that has long since stopped, even in Thailand.

Last year, I did pour scented water over the hands of one of my elders here, expressed my respect and asked for her wisdom.

It made her cry. These things truly do touch people.

One particular act of kindness I like is the releasing of live birds to the sky or fish to the river. I have also experienced this and it was emotionally very powerful.

So that is how I have reconfigured Songkran to work for me. These rituals and customs bring such richness to life, such texture.

In that light, my wishes for a blessed Easter to those who celebrate, Songkran to those who celebrate. In whatever fashion you acknowledge the turn of the season, may it be a blessing. May the breezes that blow on you be gentle and refreshing, may the peace in your spirit continue to warm and sustain you and may you continue to discover the beauty of life.




heartinsanfrancisco said...


May the peace in your spirit warm and sustain you and may you, too, continue to discover the beauty of life.

Every time I come to you, it opens my heart a little more.

I wash your hands with scented water and appreciate your wisdom every day.


jen said...

a truly lovely post. thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight into the importance of celebrating life.

ellie bee said...

lovely, lovely post, lovlier thoughts. you are a blessing...

Mary said...


Thanks for visiting my blog. I am glad you did because it lead me to yours. I enjoyed the last few posts you have written. You certainly have good insight into the human condition and explain yourself very well. You are sincere, enlightening and funny at the same time!

Happy Easter to you and enjoy your celebration of renewal - and, hey, no one needs to throw water on anyone to have fun ;o)

I'll be back.


caro said...

Hi Chani. I just had my Dad and his wife over for Easter brunch. He brought over some delicious maple syrup, made from the sap of the trees on his property. He was happy to be with his family and that made me happy in return. Reading your post made my wonderful day all the more special.Thank you.

meno said...

I love adapting things that you like in order to make them suit your needs better.

This makes me think that i need to create a spring ritual.

flutter said...

coming here is like a warm blanket

KGMom said...

Thanks for stopping by--I am happy to stop by your blog.
And I expect to be back. Last year, my daughter & her boyfriend visited Thailand. She was very much taken with the beauty of the country.

Laurie said...

My day was spent with my cousin in the hospital. It was another day of miracles and wonderful happenings. His blood counts are up, significantly and he is hungry for the first time since the transplant. What a joyous day.

Great post, as usual, Chani.

Anonymous said...

I live in Texas now, but I grew up in Ohio. Up north, spring happens slowly; you see the buds slowly come out, slowly grow, slowly open.

In Texas, spring lasts about two days. You look out one morning and *FIZZ-BANG* -everything's green.

Thailand Gal said...

Susan, thanks. :) That's such a kind thing to say...


Jen, thanks for saying so.


Ellie Bee, so are you. :)


Mary, how true! We don't have to dump water on each other to have a good time. In fact, that wouldn't really qualify as "good time". LOL

Thanks for coming by. I'll be glad to see more of your blog also.


Caro, glad you had a good day with him. Sometimes it's the simplest things that bring the greatest joy to the greatest number of people.


Meno, it really has helped. At least for me. Seeking joy is something I have to do rather intentionally.


Flutter, thanks so much! That really makes me happy that you'd feel that way.


kgmom, It would be interesting to know how your daughter liked it. It's a different environment for sure! Nearly everyone I know who has been there loved it.


Laurie.. wow! What wonderful news to start the day with. :)


Thomas, it's similar here in NoCal. It seems to change overnight. It's amazing to have a 35-degree night and wake up a few days later to find blooming azaleas.




Pam said...

The elements and renewal...yes. As you saw on my blog, however, we're still waiting. It's still cold and there are still snow flurries.

To the beauty of life.

Thailand Gal said...

Pam, yes.. it does seem you are having an extended winter. How weird is that? In California, we have only had enough rain to reach 55% for the season. My freaking lillies are blooming!