The other day I was showing some people around the school. They were visiting from Australia. They made a good point that some of the teachers were a bit slow taking the “Happy New Year” banners down from the classrooms. I said that well may be true from their point of view. But you could look at it another way. They are also a little early for the next one. In less than two weeks, the Chinese will be celebrating their own new year.
A number of teachers and students have Chinese ancestry so I guess it would make sense to continue the celebration. In fact, I think about 25% of the students will be absent from school on New Year’s Day this month. For the teachers and kitchen staff that have to work, there will be a ceremony taking place at the school in order for them to honour their dead ancestors. And of course, there will be some extremely loud firecrackers!
For Thai people, their traditional new year is on April 13th. This is called Songkran and over the years it has turned into a good excuse to have a massive water fight. However, underlying this, by tradition, people will pour a small amount of perfumed water over their elder’s hands and in return will receive a blessing. More about that nearer the time.
There is actually one more New Year celebration within the first four months of the year. I only learned about this for the first time last month when I got caught up in the middle of the festivities. Although about 95% of Thai people are Buddhists, there is also a sizeable number of Muslims. Most of these people live in the three southernmost provinces. However, scattered around Thailand are small Muslim communities.
Behind our townhouse there is a mosque which is the place of worship for the local Muslims. In fact, most people know the name of our lane by its nickname Soi Sulao. Which means “mosque”. I think of all the religions, Islam is the most misunderstood. Last month, when I discovered that they were celebrating their New Year, it kind of woke me up to how ignorant I was of my neighbours. It made feel like I should make an effort to learn some more about them. After all, I live in their community. I’ll share some of the things I have discovered over the coming weeks and months.