Monday, May 14, 2012

Boon Pakwet

The Boon Pakwet festival was fun. Imagine if your town could throw a party once every year and the surrounding towns paid for it. Not only that, but because the cost of the party is off-set by village volunteers, a huge pot-luck and village donations, too (every house had to come up with 300 THB, about ten U.S. dollars [USD]) the larger left over is used for a village improvement project that the elders decide upon for that year. Well, aside from the additional ceremony to pray for a fruitful rice growing season this year, that is what Boon Pakwet is all about: our village’s annual party funded by other villages.

Of course, when the other villages have their annual party, we participate by bringing in our village money trees just like they did with ours.

The “money tree” is the main form of currency transfer. Village representatives come into the village party, go to the receiving village’s elders and headman, and present their village’s contribution to the party. Thai currency bills are stuck in between thin strips of bamboo that are themselves stuck into a “tree.” The tree could be a banana stalk stuck in a bucket of rice; a woven stalk with legs; a miniature wooden tree likewise with legs and looking like it’s used multiple times for such a purpose. The tree is carried with some ceremony into the center of the party, along with dancing around the village elders and headman three times.

I was honored when asked to be part of the village elders receiving other village representatives and help count the money after they had gone to join the party. So, I was able to hang out with all the high-up guys in our village and get to know them better.

Meanwhile, around us on the village’s temple grounds, a block-wide party was in full gear, with a karaoke stage and amplifier blasting to the rest of the village. In another corner, another amplified area featured more singing and dancing. Free food was everywhere, as well as drinks, including alcohol. This would not have been proper in our Forest Temple, but it was OK in the village temple, as long as it was for a good cause.

Later, long after the party weekend was behind us and the bills paid, the extra money is now being used to build a new gateway for the village temple; worth approximately $5,000 USD.

Here are some images from the two day affair. While it might appear that some things were staged, I assure you everything was spontaneous. That's just how my village friends and family are...

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