New year celebrations in Northeastern Thailand center around New Year’s Eve, as it does most everywhere on the planet. The apex of New Year’s Eve is, of course, “the countdown” to the new year. This is probably adopted from Western culture, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Usually, the guys organize a party for the last day of the year, with the high point being the count down, but by no means the end of it. In fact, celebrations could go on for a number of days, but usually only one. Not all parties are just on New Year’s Eve, either. During the last week of the old year and the first week of the new, there are scattered celebrations across family, friends and even business lines. What this means is that at any given time during this two week period, there’s usually a party going on somewhere.
The women will either be a part of it or not, depending on whether the party is a family gathering or just a guys’ thing. Even if it’s mainly for the guys, the women will prepare the food and come and go throughout. However, they tend to celebrate with each other, usually at family homes. If alcohol is present, it is in very low quantity and strength. Also, country women never smoke.
Thip’s brothers broke with their tradition this year by not having a party because -- well, they’re broke. I didn’t find out about it until the next day. I had already determined to stay away from the large amount of alcohol usually consumed. Instead, I attended my wife’s New Year’s Eve party out at our farm house. She and a few of her closest friends got together for food and a little bit of what Thip calls “Sprinker” (sparkling wine in 8 oz. bottles). They followed this with the bringing-in-the-new-year ceremony at our Kamattan temple -- within view of the farm house, a little less than a quarter mile away.
Candles lit on the ground floor of Bann Nah; outdoor kitchen in background right.
When I saw Thip’s brothers Sawt and Pawt the next day, I asked how their party had gone.
“Pee Mai mai” (no new year) was their reply. I asked why not?
“No money,” they said with sad faces and more words to Thip in Thai.
Later, I asked my wife what they had said.
“They barbecued some chickens for you yesterday, but you not come.”