Thai flowers with meaning

I mentioned to you before that I wanted to buy some flowers for the house which are meant to bring you good luck. There is supposed to be a certain kind of flower that Thai people believe will bring prosperity to your household. It sounded like a good idea. The only problem is that I couldn’t remember the name. But I could picture it. Or so I thought.

Last night I headed over to our local Big C. Around the back they have quite a big garden center. After browsing for a while I spotted a plant with a red flower that looked familiar. I asked for the name and the assistant said it was called “dok kem”. I inquired whether it was supposed to give you good luck but she replied that she had no idea. Well, it looked like a nice flower which would nicely adorn my front doorway. So, why not. I bought two plants at 35 baht each.

Back at school that evening, I decided to do some research on the Internet and googled for “dok kem”. Not surprisingly the first hit was one of my own sites that I had written a number of years ago! This flower is used by students to present to their teachers in the annual “wai khru ceremony”. So, that is where I have seen that flower before!

The most important event to be held at school is the annual Wai Khru Ceremony. Like other schools around the country this always takes place towards the start of the new academic year and always on a Thursday. The students pay respect to their teachers by presenting them with flowers and going down onto the floor to do a krab which is the most respectful way to show respect. The students hope to gain merit and good fortune for the coming year. Quite often, students who have moved onto other schools come back to present their teachers with flower garlands.

Each class takes part in a competition to design the best flower arrangement. But each individual student also comes to school with their own bunch of flowers. The flowers used in the arrangement are symbolic. Dok Ma Khue (eggplant flower) stands for respect because when the tree is blooming its branches bend down in the same way a student pays respect to their teacher. Ya Praek (Bermuda grass) stands for patience or perseverance because although the grass looks wilted it is still very much alive. Khao Tok (popped rice) stands for discipline because the rice is placed in a pan together and heated up to become popped rice. The Dok Kem (the red flower and the one I bought) has the same name as the Thai word for needle. So it means the student will be sharp-witted and brainy.

Well, I guess that won’t hurt me. A few more brain cells and I might be able to remember the name of the plant that I should have bought!

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