Saturday, July 16, 2011

Buddhism is the religion of over 90% of the country of Thailand and has broad impact on the lives of Thai people all over the country. Most holidays in Thailand mark important days for the Buddhist religion, including the upcoming Buddhist Lent Day on 27 July, 2010.  Buddhist Lent is mainly practiced by ordained monks and on July 27, the beginning of lent, the Candle Festival is celebrated by all Thai people. The Candle Festival is celebrated country-wide, but the most well recognized celebrations are in Ubon Rachathani province in northeastern Thailand (Isaan).
According to history, Buddhist Lent Day began as a result of villagers complaining to the Lord Buddha. They said that a group of determined monks making merit for Buddhism had walked through their wet rice fields.  The rice fields were thriving and their actions ruined the crop.  As a result, the story is that the Lord Buddha set a rule for all monks to practice making merit while confined to the temples.  Today Buddhist Lent requires all monks to remain confined to their temples or place of residence for a period of 3 months during the rainy season, beginning the first day of the eighth waning moon.
Thai people are very appreciative of the commitment to Buddhist Lent and are privileged to offer all necessary things such as towels, dry foodstuffs, blankets, etc. This offering includes candles and so we see the origin of the celebrated Candle Festival.  In past times there was no electricity into many temples and the candle has become an important symbolic influence in various ceremonies and in daily use. Also, as the candle signifies wisdom as light; during the Candle Festival people demonstrate their beliefs by offering large and often lavishly decorated candles to the monks.
On the day before Buddhist Lent day, groups of people will gather with their elaborately decorate candles and put them on parade. The rich, luxuriously sculpted patterns on the beautiful candles portray the willpower, unity, and Buddhist beliefs of that community. The candle parade procession will contain young and old, in their best dress.  In Ubon Ratchathani there will be many groups of local Isaan performances, musicians and dancers.  There is also a beauty contest to select Miss Candle (the most beautiful lady of that community).
Regardless of where you may be in the country, you will find a celebration of the Candle Festival.  Rain or shine people will be having fun and expressing their faith on July 27, the beginning of Buddhist lent.
Picture Credit : Me [Jsseng]


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