Monday, April 9, 2012

New thing #24: Rod Nahm Dum Hua

My trip to Thailand ended just before the start of one of the biggest and wildest annual festivals, Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year. While there are several different traditions associated with Songkran, the most important ritual of the festival is the splashing of water. This symbol of cleansing and renewal ranges from the respectful ceremony of "Rod Nahm Dum Hua", to an all out water war in the streets, where everyone gets drenched in a carnival atmosphere. Although I didn't get to experience the entire celebration, I was privileged to participate in a version of Rod Nahm Dum Hua that took place at our office in Thailand.

During a break between shifts, we were invited to the cafeteria where four chairs were lined up in a row. We sat and large engraved silver bowls were placed at our feet. The ceremony was explained to us - each person would dip a small silver cup into a bucket of water that was scented with jasmine and orchid petals, then they would take turns pouring the water over our hands. They were doing this to show respect and ask for blessings for the new year. The water was warm and smelled wonderful, as did the lei of orchids and jasmine that was placed around our necks. Everyone was in a party mood, laughing and smiling as they poured the water carefully over our clasped hands and wished us a Happy New Year. A tub containing a watery paste of white clay appeared, and everyone started smearing it on each other's faces. One of the girls apologized as she wiped it on my cheeks, explaining it was another part of the tradition meant to ward away evil spirits and provide protection. When everyone had finished pouring the water, we drank sodas and ate snacks and took pictures of each other's clay faces. It was a very welcoming and fun experience and the highlight of my trip to Thailand.

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