During July there are two important Buddhist holidays. First, tomorrow, it is Asaha Bucha Day. “Asaha” means the eighth lunar month and Asaha Bucha means the ceremony in the eighth lunar month. On the full moon day of the eighth lunar month, the Lord Buddha gave his first sermon and one of his followers became the first Buddhist monk.
The following day is known as Khao Phansa which literally translates as “the day of entering Lent”. The Thai authorities call this three month period “Buddhist Lent” because many lay people choose to be strict about keeping the precepts and even refrain from eating meat. Monks are not allowed to leave their temple during this period which coincides with the rainy season. They are not even allowed to disrobe until it finishes in October.
As the next two days are public holidays, our school, and most schools around the country, took part in colourful parades to their local temples. They took with them a 1-2 metre high Lent candle which the monks will keep alight for the full three months. On reaching the temple, the students took part in a procession around the main building (bot) three times in a clockwise direction. In Thai this is called wien tien. They then went inside where they presented the candle to the monks as well as food, essentials and donations for the upkeep of the temple. They then took part in chanting and finished by listening to a sermon.
If you are in Thailand at the moment, then I would suggest you visit your local temple on Thursday where you will be able to experience many special actitivies. Two big events can be seen at the Tak Bat Dok Mai Festival in Saraburi and the Candle Festival in Ubon Ratchathani. More about these events later.