The Monk Blessing Ceremony takes place in Fanfan’s family home in Nang Rong, Thailand. A blessing for her Grandad (Ta) for prolonged health and life (Tor Ar Yu). Before the Monk Blessing Ceremony we join the family to help organisation and preparation. The night involves three main tasks. Preparing food, collecting offerings and creating space for the ceremony. While ladies nibble unripe mango, natter and prepare vegetables (pak kwan and mara kee nok) I accept the task to sort the Sang Kathan Baskets. Golden baskets of treats to be presented to monks during the Monk Blessing Ceremony. Nine in total with nine monks attending. Each Sang Kathan contains monk requisites. Things that monks need. Parcels include candles, incense, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, coffee, medicines… Next we pull together to carry living room furniture to the front porch. Being the athletic male of the bunch I take charge of the heavy lifting. Bashing heavy teak chairs through doors. Not speaking Thai my main hindrance. “Wang, wang wang….”, “Huh?” Bang. With the room set we leave around 8pm. Knackered. The Monk Blessing Ceremony starts 06.30 the following morning.
Early Morning Preparations (06.00AM)
In the morning we circle the neighbourhood picking up local food favourites. Around 50 people will join us throughout the day so it was necessary to bring a lot of food in. On our shopping list – Kha Moo (stewed pork leg), Khanom Jeen (rice noodles) and bags of ice. Back at the house we arrive to mayhem. Every space taken for cooking and preparing fruits, veg, sauces, meats, fish… At this stage my muckleness only gets in the way. I hide in the corner and wait for the monks to arrive.
Buddhist Monk Blessing Ceremony (06.30am)
At 06:30 the early rising monks arrive to the front room and take place along the back wall. Respected elders of the neighbourhood and dedicated Buddhist followers sit facing the monks. Ta sits up front with wife Yai. The ceremony begins with chanting of Sanskrit prayers from Buddhist prayer books. A lengthy piece of string stretches the length of the room. The string is blessed along with a golden bowl of holy water with drips of candle wax. The blessing ceremony lasts for over an hour. Praying, chanting and making ceremony.
Last Meal for Monks (07.45am)
After prayers the congregation move to the front porch. A line forms and we take turns to spoon cooked rice into the alms bowls of the nine monks. Once full the bowls are brought back inside to the monks. The rice is joined with steamed fish with chilli (pla noon), stewed pork leg (kha moo), rice noodles and curry (khanom jeen nam ya), fruits (longon, rambutan, mangosteen), Thai desserts (Thong Yip, Thong Yod, Boon Maprao) and a pork soup (Gaeng Jued). Monks cannot eat later than 12 noon so we are sure to feed them well.
Blessing the Family (08.15AM)
The family now join the Monk Blessing Ceremony. As the newest family member I too haunch up on my knees (unexpectedly). I hold a wai (bow) to my chest and sit in excruciating pain. Long periods sat on knees is extremely painful. Knees, half ass/half knees, back to knees. Fortunately, noticing my anguish, I am told I can sit crossed legs. For the remainder of the ceremony I sit like an eager school kid. After the monks bless the family it was our turn to make offerings to the monks. 9 family members, 9 monks, 9 Sang Kathan. I present mine to the cheerful monk pictured below. The Monk Blessing Ceremony ends with Holy Water sprinkled (sprayed) over family members and others in the congregation (again unexpectedly). Half soaked.
After the Monks (08.45am)
After the Blessing Ceremony the monks return to the temple. With them they take a live turtle presented by Ta to be released into the waters of the temple. The elders of the congregation join Ta to offer their own blessings. Blessing him in Thai, asking for health, taking away ills and tying string (sai sin bracelets) to his wrist. The sai sin bracelets are lengths from the string blessed earlier by the monks. The congregation relax and a feast spreads right across the house to the back garden. We take food to a back garden table and sit under a mango tree next to the cat.
What We Eat?
Normally I stuff my face on these occasions. Not today. Today we have a further food-filled day planned with a Nang Rong Food Tour. For this feast I stick to my favourite. Kha Moo is famous in Nang Rong. Eat it and you will know why.