A Thai Housewarming – Family, Friends & Food
Khuan Ban Mai (ขึ้นบ้านใหม่), the blessing of a new house, literally means “going up into a new house”. The terminology refers to the fact that in the past one had to ‘go up into a house’ since most Thai houses were built on stilts to avoid the possible flooding during the summer rainy season.
This occasion is regarded by Thai people as a very auspicious event. It celebrates the completion of a new home (or renovation) by bringing together friends and family and performing a Buddhist rite to encourage good fortune and prosperity for the new dwelling and its inhabitants.
Before the ceremony takes place, the host will ask for advice from monks or senior lay people to determine a suitable day for the ceremony. The auspicious day depends on the day of the week and the time of the year. For example, Saturday is considered to be an unlucky day for a blessing as Saturn is believed to be the planet of misfortune.
Monks play important role in the house warming ceremony. The host will usually invite an odd number of monks such as 5, 7 or 9 monks as odd numbers are regarded as a lucky. Normally, the ceremony is held in the morning until noon and afterwards the monks gather together to bless the host and guests.
Lustral water is a traditionally part of the ceremony made from underground water contained in a bronze pot. Buddhist monks can use their alms bowls to hold the lustral water. Wax candles are often on the rim of the bowl in which lustral water is being prepared. As drops of wax fall into the bowl, disease, sorrow and evil are believed to be washed away. Gold leaves, Bermuda grass and even lotuses may be placed in the bowl to increase its magical powers. The most sacred lustral water is made with four elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Wind. Earth is represented by the drops of wax, water by that in the bowl, fire by the candle flame and wind by the extinguishments of the candle.
After the prayers, monks bless the guests by sprinkling lustral water. When the ceremony is finished, food will be offered to the monks by the host followed by gift offerings. The gift set usually contains a banana leaf cone holding flowers, candles, and joss sticks along with necessary everyday items (drinking water, soap, detergent, toothbrush, shampoo and comestibles such as biscuits or crackers). As well as these individual gifts for monks there is usually a sealed envelope which contains a donation to help support the temple. The meal must be finished by the monks before noon.
As part of the ceremony, monks will sprinkle lustral or holy water on the host and guests and throughout the new house. Each member of new household will receive a string wrist-binding (white holy thread) from the monk as a blessing. The holy thread, known as Sai Seen, is also entwined around the main household Buddha image. Once blessing is complete the monks leave and the guests will have lunch together.
A wide selection of food is prepared for the event and the choice of dishes is an important consideration. Thai curries are a popular choice and are often served with Thai vermicelli. Vermicelli is a long mung bean noodle which is a traditional symbol of longevity and is served to promote the long life of the host, long like the noodle. Serving curry with vermicelli is also common for other ceremonies such as a wedding.
Dessert will also be served to everyone. Desserts with significant names and meanings are chosen such as Foi Thong (sweet golden threads), Thong Yip (sweet golden flower), Thong Yod (sweet golden dew-drop-like ball) or even Kanom Chun (layered sweet meat). In Thai, “Thong” means “golden” and desserts with this is in the name signify wealth and good life for one and all. Kanom Chun dessert implies receiving respect and promotion in your working life.
Khuan Ban Mai, the housewarming ceremony, is a traditional part of Thai life that has been passed from generation to generation. It is a ceremony combining Buddhist beliefs with social values and Thai customs and is a wonderful opportunity for family members to gather and enjoy the moment together increasing warmth and closeness in the family and with friends.