Buddhist New Year’s Eve at a Thai Temple

New-year-at-wat-phra-singh-chiang-mai

With so many people rushing around the city to get drunk before the clock turned twelve, it was nice to see local Thai people gather at the temple to ring in the New Year. Thousands gathered at Wat Phra Singh in the middle of Chiang Mai’s old city to make offerings, sit in meditation, and chant prayers. By the time we showed up, a little after 11 pm, it was hard to even find a place to sit. All around the temple buildings, there were hundreds of men and women of all ages peacefully sitting in meditation.

Silent meditation before midnight

Silent meditation before midnight

Out in front of the main hall there is a statue of the Buddha where people traditionally place their offerings of flowers, candles, and incense. Many people had bought special candles to burn that had paper wrapped around with prayers according to the day of the week they were born. Do you even know what day of the week you were born on? I’m not sure it’s too common for Americans and other westerners to be aware of, but every Thai person knows the day of the week they were born on—It’s one component of Thai astrology.

candles-and-incense-at-wat-phra-singh-temple
There were so many visitors to the temple on this night that the incense burners and candle racks were beyond capacity. The poor flower planters next to the Buddha statue had to become incense holders for the night.

candles-and-incense-in-planters-at-thai-temple
Monks led the crowd in chanting Buddhist prayers in the Pali language, and also some in Thai. And then as the clock turned to midnight, the crowd was encouraged to sit quietly in meditation for a few moments. It was an interesting experience to be sitting in such a still environment as fireworks and firecrackers could be heard going off nearby in other parts of the city.
Happy New Year 2013!


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