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Mother’s Day Celebrations In Thailand

By: Jeab Meechai- Thailand Country Director

In Thailand, the 12th of August is celebrated as the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit and the entire country immerses in celebrations. As the Queen is also seen as being the mother of all Thai people, this day is also celebrated as ‘Mother’s Day.’ The first Mother’s Day/ Queen’s birthday celebration was in 1976.  Ever since then, the 12th August has been celebrated as Mother’s Day.  Thai people celebrate this day because of the queen’s benevolence towards needy and poor in the nation. The Queen has captured the hearts of Thai people through her devotion toward welfare and well- being of her people.

H.M. The Queen

A few weeks before the Queen’s birthday, preparations start at full swing. People all around the country raise Thai flags and decorate their houses with the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen. This is their way of expressing their loyalty and honor to her. Similarly, local businesses are decorated with her portraits, garlands, and colorful lights. In Bangkok, the area around the Grand Palace is decorated with colorful lights and a fireworks display is held.

People raise H.M. The Queen’s portrait with the National flag

On the 12th August, early in the morning government officials, royal army, students and teachers gather around the high tower clock. They form a procession and walk to the king’s palace. On the way to the palace, the band plays popular music pieces. After arrival at the King’s palace, the procession presents flowers to the representative of HM the Queen. It’s followed by the song ”Mother of Kingdom’, praising both Queen and King. In the evening there is a ceremony at the Queen’s garden, where government officials light candles. In this way, they pay respect to the Queen and ask for her long life.

This day is not only limited to the birthday celebration of the Queen; Thai people also take this day as an opportunity to thank their dear mothers for their unconditional love. Mother’s day morning in Thailand starts by giving alms to the monks. Following the Thai tradition, kids kneel down before their mother to show their love and gratitude. They present her with white jasmine flowers or garlands.  In return, mothers shower their blessings on the kids. On this day, white jasmine flowers are a common sight in Thailand as they are the symbol of maternal love. The white color of the flower symbolizes the purity of mother’s true love, which will never change. Charitable activities, donations, and offerings to monks are also an important part of the day to express children’s love and gratitude towards their mothers.

Jasmine is the symbol of Mother’s Day

I look forward to taking my mother for a walk around the Grand Palace this weekend to see colorful lights and fireworks and giving her a jasmine flower!

Khmer New Year Rolls Around Again!

By: Heather Van Hull, Booking and Social Media Coordinator- Cambodia

Its New Years time again in Cambodia!  For 2012, the New Year dates are the 13-16 April (next week!).  The New Year will mark the end of Buddhist year 2555 and the start of year 2556, the year of the Dragon.

Traditionally in Cambodia, the New Year is celebrated over three days (although many Khmer people return to their villages for a full week to spend time with family), each of which holds a special meaning:

Day 1 – Maha Songkran

This day marks the start of the New Year.  Today, people dress in their finest to visit shrines or temples where they pay homage to Buddha and his teachings by leaving offerings of flowers and incense.  Food prepared during this time is also offered to monks at the temples.

Today people also start to build small mountains from sand on temple grounds.  The sand mountains symbolize Mount Meru (the same mountain represented in the architecture of Angkor Wat)- the mythical Hindu mountain thought to be the center of the universe and home of the gods.  Each bit of sand added to the mountain is believed to bring more health and happiness into people’s lives.

To bring in more good luck for the New Year, people also sprinkle holy water on each other’s faces in the morning, on their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening.

 Day 2 – Virak Wanabat

Today people do merit by helping the less fortunate, participating in service activities and forgiving others for past misdeeds.  They also pay respect to elders by giving gifts to parents, grandparents, teachers and others that play a large role in their lives.  Many families also attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the temple, paying respect to elders in a different way.

 Day 3 – Tngay Leang Saka

On the final day of the New Year celebrations, Buddhists cleanse their elders and statues of the Buddha with perfumed water; this act symbolizes hope for sufficient rainfall for the upcoming rice harvest and is also believed to bring longevity, good luck and happiness in life.   Today monks also bless the sand mountains that have grown in size since the first day of celebrations.

For travellers coming to Cambodia during this time it is a great chance to experience local life and customs.  However, be warned that public transportation schedules can be subject to change and transport prices tend to increase during the New Year week. 

Banks and many local businesses, especially those in non-touristic areas, will also be closed during this time.  Around more touristy areas in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh most restaurants and tourist-oriented businesses will remain open.   

Check back next week for photos and stories about New Years from our country directors!

Interested in how other parts of Southeast Asia welcome in the New Year?

Check out similar posts here: Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar

International Women’s Day- Vietnam

By: Michelle Nguyen- Vietnam Country Director

Across Southeast Asia, 8 March is celebrated as International Women’s Day.  In Vietnam, this means that men and children throughout the country take over the chores for the day, give the women in their lives (from teachers to wives and mothers) gifts and generally pamper them to show them their respect, love and thanks. All the florists are bursting with amazing flowers and fragrant bouquets and flower sellers are seen along the streets to remind passers-by that it is a special day.

Streetside Florists in Saigon- A perfect reminder for forgetful husbands

It is also common for school children to take a small gift to their female teachers and bring home something handmade from their day at school.

Many choose to say 'Thank you' with flowers

Here’s a peek into  how some of our staff celebrate this special day:

Saigon

This year my husband and I just took some time out of our busy lives simply to have a walk in the park and relax at a coffee shop, just the two of us without kids in tow.  My 4 year old daughter brought home a beautiful paper flower she had made and decorated at school for me and in the evening my husband treated my daughters, mother-in-law and I to a meal out so we didn’t have to cook. Wonderful!

Around the city the coffee shops all have special occasion treats on offer and restaurants or hotels host events too.

Hue

Mrs. Binh is one of our amazing guides and such a gentle woman with a wonderful sense of humour. She told me her young sons bought her some flowers and that they visited her husband’s village to spend some time and take a gift to his mother. In the city of Hue itself there were music and dance shows performed by students.

Hanoi

Mrs. Thuong is one of the stars in our team. She works very hard behind the scenes with us to give you the special holidays you ask for. This year she spent her day celebrating with the team in Hanoi and in the evening she went out for dinner with some friends and her family.

I learnt something new this year- Mrs. Thuong let me know that in addition to the public music shows, normally, if you are a member of women’s organisation, you will be invited to join in a meeting and music show at the city cultural hall for a few hours.

So it goes to show that there is always another layer of this culture to peel back and discover, no matter how long you are here…

Want to see more pictures of how Women’s Day was celebrated at our office?  Click here

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