Millions of people from all around Thailand came together on the evening of the 5th December 2009 to celebrate H.M. The King’s 82nd birthday. In Samut Prakan we also had a ceremony in the City Hall Plaza alongside the river. This was attended by the Governor, Mr. Surachai Kanasa, and the City Mayor as well hundreds of local people. They represented schools, government departments and private organizations.
From 6 p.m. onwards, each group took turns in paying homage to a portrait of H.M. The King by presenting two “phan phums”. This is a lotus bud shaped floral design. They are presented on a small tray. They are not easy to make and it can be time-consuming. Traditionally a mould is made using clay mixed with sawdust. But these days special dry floral foam is cut into the shape of a lotus bud. The stem of the dried flower is cut off and a sharp pointed slither of bamboo is used to pin it into the dry foam.
It took over an hour for all of the organizations to present their “phan phum”. Everything had to be finished before 7.19 p.m. as this was the auspicious time chosen to start the main ceremony that would take place simultaneously around the country. The main event in Bangkok at Sanam Luang was televised and broadcast live around the country. Millions of candles were lit at exactly 7.19 p.m. and the Thai people then sang songs to praise H.M. The King.
The sea of candle light was a beautiful scene but the grand finale of the event was of course the magnificent firework display. We actually had two shows as a district across the river started theirs a little early while we were still singing. At the completion of the songs the sky behind the giant portrait of H.M. The King was lit up with colourful fireworks. A beautiful finish to a wonderful evening.
Today, people from all around the country are coming together to celebrate the 82nd birthday of H.M. The King. Many of them are wearing pink which is an auspicious colour believed to help make the King better. The Thai monarch has been in Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok since 19th September for treatment for inflammation of his lungs. Several thousand well-wishers gathered at the City Hall Plaza in Samut Prakan to give alms to 99 monks in honour of His Majesty.
The ceremony was opened by Mr. Surachai Kanasa, the Governor of Samut Prakan. He first paid homage to a Buddha image and then took part in chanting. Attending the event were many local government officials who all came together to pay homage to His Majesty. A similar event was being held at the same time in Bangkok at Sanam Luang. H.M. The King is regarded as a father to all Thai people as they love him so much. This day is also celebrated as National Father’s Day.
After the chanting had finished, the Governor led the local people in giving alms to several hundred monks. Tables had been set up around the parade ground and local people had gathered behind them since early morning. They did this to make merit on behalf of H.M. The King. To make the most merit, the food should have been prepared by themselves before they arrived and not bought at a food stall. Leftovers from the night before must never be given to monks.
The local people stood behind the tables as the monks slowly made their way down the row. People were giving fresh food as well as pre-prepared packages such as pot noodles that you can see in this picture. As some of these items were too big for the alms bowls, each of the monks were assisted by temple boys who carried big sacks. The monk then emptied their bowls into these sacks. By the end of the alms giving event, the pick-up trucks from the temples were full with sacks of food. Local people also gave the monks purple orchid flowers and also envelopes containing money.
After the alms giving had finished, Mr. Surachai Kanasa and local people made merit for H.M. The King by releasing 1,000,000 sea creatures into the Chao Phraya River. This is a common event done to make merit for birthdays. People usually release birds or fish. I thought that 1,000,000 was a staggering number to release in one go, but it turned out to be very small shrimps. These were in plastic bags which people emptied out into a large tub of water. From this there was a pipe which washed the shrimps out into the river below. This evening, Mr. Surachai Kanasa will lead the local people to light candles to wish the monarch a happy birthday.
More pictures can be seen at www.PaknamPhotos.com and also a video at www.paknam.com.