Friday, 10 October 2014

Letting Go, Giving Thanks and Future Blessings

People releasing their boats on the river at Tat Luang temple - you can pay a small child to release it for you and ensure it gets out into the flow of the river for just 5000 kip (falang price - I heard 1000 quoted to a local....)
This week Gavin and I participated in Loi Krathong/Boun Awk Phansa - the end of the Buddhist Lent.  Stories differ on the meaning of the holiday presently, it is the day that the monks are released from a 3 month "rains retreat" period and can be out and about in the world again.  But in the evening Lao people set small "boats" with candles to float away on their nearest river and/or send "spirit orbs" (floating Chinese lanterns) floating into the sky.

The day before the Full Moon we made our boats at my work, with the help of one of my wonderful colleagues - she rolled her eyes and giggled at our poor attempts and when we went to pick them up on the Wednesday night she had made the time to decorate our boats with flowers (on her own time, during a public holiday I might add!)

The boats are made from banana leaves and bananas stems (which float incredibly well!)  A certain amount of oragami, staples and pins finish the gorgeous little boats.

My own personal "Kratong"
The holiday is a mixed process of letting go, giving thanks and asking for blessings for the year ahead - be it from Buddha, the nagas (spirit snakes) in the river or some other form of deity or spirit you believe in.  And, next to the holiday of Thanksgiving in the USA it rates among my favorite global holidays.  Couples, holding hands (typically taboo in Lao culture - I got a bit of a shock!) typically let off a boat together to ensure a long-lasting and happy relationship, people let go of angst and anxiety and let the river take it downstream and we all dream of a better year ahead with love, laughter and fulfilled opportunities.

Gavin and I released two boats together (one discarded with roses and sparklers that Gavin found on the road - he really knows how to spoil me with discarded goods!) and also released what some Lao were calling a "Spirit Orb" - the lantern.  So - here's to the worries of last year behind us and the promise of the future ahead - I have a feeling it's going to be a good one!

Our spirit orb, with the light of the full moon to the left, takes off into the atmosphere!