Y’all come! Our village temple community is having a Poy Luang festival March 4 and 5, and you are invited. A Poy Luang festival is a cross between a village-wide open house and a community home-coming. It is a big party and a fund-raising event for the temple. If you want to be in on this come around dusk either day (the weather is getting punishingly hot in the afternoon) and we will be glad to see you and give you something to eat and drink.
“Poy Luang” is not found in the Thai-English dictionaries I have. It is a Northern Thai (Lanna) tradition with similar but not identical events in other parts of the country called different things. Here’s what I think it is and what I expect to happen. I’ll be back to you afterward with more specifics.
The other day the whole thing was kicked off by a ceremony to mark the placement of the Poy Luang Banners. These banners, called tung, are long colorful woven pieces of cloth hung in such a way as to catch every breeze and remind people that there are ancestral spirits around. They are light weight and meant to move and sway. But a long line of them in bright colors along a roadway is a sure sign they lead to a temple planning a Poy Luang festival. Each of the colors is meaningful, especially those standing for the days of the week.
Before that kick-off event, there was a major renovation in and around our temple. A dilapidated old building was removed, a wall was extended, and things were painted. Even the pavement of the road next to the temple was improved. The major income from the Poy Luang was to do these things. Another campaign raised funds for a gong collection. The old-timers have been practicing, although they don’t sound like they need much practice.
There is no set way to conduct the festival. Our community is having a lower-key celebration, but there will be a music ensemble and performances on the night of the fourth. Throughout the day and evening of the fifth of March abbots from other temples will come with delegations. The laity will visit homes first.
We have been laying in supplies. We will feed however many people come to our open house during the day and night of March 4 and 5. Artty, a neighbor, (whose supplies are pictured above) expects college friends to come and has planned accordingly. At our house emphasis will be on light food and beverage with a lot of ice. Some families are hiring music making equipment, especially karaoke music, which gives volunteers a chance to sing for the whole village, depending on the volume. To be honest, the volume will be high. Pramote and I have decided to forego that formidable aspect of the open house.
Sometime late on the second day we will carry a money tree to the temple. Every household participating in the Poy Luang will go to the temple, dancing and cavorting as they go. Almost every house in the village is beyond our house. We expect them all to pass by here.
The last time our temple had a Poy Luang was eight years ago, so they don’t happen that often. But when they do it is a community event that involves everybody who can get out of bed. I maintain that these festivals are the glue that holds Thai society as well as Buddhism together here in the valleys of the North.
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Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.