Chiang Mai FeMail  by Elena Edwards
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The traditional Thai wedding…ritual and romance

Gossip is good for you…no surprise there, then!

Tragedy at the Temple

 

The traditional Thai wedding…ritual and romance

Performers in traditional costumes enact
the rituals of a Thai Buddhist wedding ceremony.

Elena Edwards
As weddings are featured elsewhere in the paper this week, it seemed an idea to look at the Thai wedding ceremony itself…no rushing down to the local registry office with two friends as witnesses, signing a piece of paper and off to the pub for our Thai sisters! Research reveals that, if you want to get hitched the traditional Thai way, a wedding planner as provided at wedding fairs might be a very good idea.
Given that many couples in the west do marry in registry offices and have the marriage blessed by a church minister at a later date, we might be tempted to make a comparison between this and the, loosely, Thai equivalent. Certainly, there is a Buddhist wedding ceremony, after which the official procedure of registering the marriage legally does take place, but it’s not a simple as that sounds. The Buddhist ceremony itself has a number of unique rituals which must be followed, step by step. A traditionally-inclined Thai couple may well be used to such, as it all begins when they become engaged and carries on until the wedding itself. The Thong Mun ritual takes place when the couple announce their engagement, and involves the giving of gold by the prospective groom to his fiancée. Family, friends and relatives are all invited, and the gold takes the form of jewellery of a certain weight. Plus, a party is a must!
Before the actual wedding takes place, an ancient tradition known as Sin Sod may need to be honoured…this is where Thai weddings and their western equivalent totally lose touch with each other…Sin Sod roughly translates as ‘dowry’, a concept usually looked upon in the west with, at the least, suspicion. Here in Thailand, however, this concept involves the bride’s family’s wish to ensure that their prospective son-in-law is able to take care of his wife, and is a respectable, worthwhile character who has been very thoroughly inspected by his prospective parents-in-law! While the original concept was to compensate the bride’s parents for ‘the mother’s milk’, and care throughout childhood, there was also the need to protect one’s daughter from marrying beneath the family’s status. After all, even now, her social, financial and professional status or reputation must be preserved and secured!
The amount of the dowry is calculated based on the wealth of the suitor, his position, and by the ‘value’ of his future wife. Her beauty, personality, background, education and other qualifications, if she is a virgin, or has a child already, etc…These days, it must be said, many parents hand back the dowry to the couple as a wedding present, unless there is real need, and some of the total may well be used to provide for the cost of the wedding and its attendant parties and celebrations.
Once the above is sorted out, it’s time to plan the actual wedding. A traditional wedding need not be held in the local temple; it’s more usually held in the home. Although monks may well be present, they take no significant part. If they are invited, an odd number, (5, 7 or the maximum number, 9), must be chosen. The Buddhist ritual, interestingly, is not recognised by the state as a legal marriage; the couple must go in person to the local Amphur’s registration office, with all relevant documents and present them to an official. At that point, the marriage becomes legally binding! One small point, however, wealthy Thai women have been known to forego the Amphur office stage, as the ‘official marriage’ registration may lose them certain civil rights…and the Buddhist ceremony is recognised as sacred and an inviolable lifetime commitment in the eyes of the religion itself.
A blessing can be carried out at the local temple, and is often considered by the bride and her family to be an essential part of the proceedings. Traditionally, if this takes place, a Merit Gift to the temple will ensure a loving and happy marriage. After all this, it’s hardly surprising that, for Thais, the most important past of the wedding rituals is the lavish party for family, friends, neighbours, long-lost uncles, cousins, etc and anyone who’s around at the time! Having read the above, we farangs may well consider that the ‘registry office/two friends/ signature/ pub’ route may be a great deal easier, not to mention cheaper, but it’s surely far less romantic!

 

Gossip is good for you… no surprise there, then!

Elena Edwards
There you are, girls…more bad news for men…gossip is actually good for our health! The reason behind this might surprise you, as it seems that lots of gossiping with girlfriends encourages your body to produce more progesterone, the hormone which reduces anxiety and stress. As a result, women to whom gossip is an essential part of life are happier, healthier and have more success in social bonding with their peers! The highly successful US television series, Sex in the City, obviously had it right…although viewers might well have been forgiven for thinking that maybe it was the sex that kept the girls smiling, rather than the gossip it encouraged.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a US university that’s come up with this theory – the University of Michigan, to be exact. This erudite establishment paired up 160 female students, giving one group a research paper on botany to proof-read. The other, luckier group were given topics and chatty questions for discussion which had been deliberately chosen to encourage gossip and bonding.
Unsurprisingly, again, the gossip group’s progesterone levels rose, while the proof-readers’ diminished. The report of the study doesn’t state whether any of the proof reading group were still awake after the 20 minutes allocated for the experiment!
The results of the trial were, (yes, truly), published in ‘Hormones and Behaviour’, a US journal all about – you guessed it – hormones and how they affect female behaviour. The professor who conducted the trials justified the cash spent on this rather obvious project by stating that ‘It’s important to find the links between biological mechanisms and human social behaviour’ Very true, but most of us women really don’t need to be told exactly why we love a good gossip, and why it makes us feel good, we’re just darn glad it does! Way to go, girlfriends!


Tragedy at the Temple

Joy Huss
Last week, on this page, we wrote about a wonderful 3 year anniversary party held at Care for Dogs. When we received the text below from Karin, one sentence in that story came immediately to mind…‘sadly, not all such stories have happy ending’.
So tragically true.
This day, June 11, marks a truly sad day for all of us at Care for Dogs, the students and co-coordinators of the Hand to Paw Outreach program and the monks at Wat Nong Pla Mun with the sudden loss of Mama, shot 3 times by an unknown person and left to bleed to death. Not only did Mama lose her life, but her daughter, Star was also brutally hit with a heavy object strong enough to break her shoulder blade. She is now convalescing at Care for Dogs.

Mama, (left), who was shot and left to die, with Star, who was badly injured and is recovering at the shelter.

In summary, we all had what sadly came to be a false sense of security for these 12 dogs, suddenly opening our eyes once again to the reality of street and temple dogs and their daily struggle for survival.
One starts a project like this with simple hopes, e.g. get the dogs vaccinated, get the girls sterilized, de-tick, bath, kiss and cuddle as often as time will allow. One forgets that animal cruelty in all its ugly forms lies in the shadows for all these dogs every minute of every day.
Mama, as we all came to know her, was not only the matriarch of the temple; she also spent a fair bit of time at the Care for Dogs shelter. She had recently given birth to a small brood of still born pups, hence her name. Soon after, she was vaccinated by the Hand to Paw Outreach and later driven across town for her sterilization and convalescing at Care for Dogs. What was to be a one-week visit turned into one month as Mama was diagnosed with the blood parasite, e-canis. She seemed to lap up every minute of care and kindness that was given to her during this time - as Khun Grib commented, ‘I don’t think she wants to leave’!
Finally, re-homed at the temple with all her mates, she seemed thrilled and back to her old self; strong and secure in her own environs and warmly welcomed by the monks. Sadly, this lasted but 5 days when she was brutally killed. At this time, the monks and villagers do not know who did these cruel and cowardly acts against Mama and Star. Both Mama and Star were kind and gentle dogs, no threat to people at all. We will continue to look into this matter until we are assured of the safety of the remaining 11 remaining dogs at the temple.
A poignant ending to this day was the 8 students from The Prem’s Hand to Paw Outreach gathered at the temple to come and care for the other dogs. Not only were the students educated into the harsh realities of the temple dogs, but a stronger bond seemed to grow between them and the dogs as they saw that ‘yes’, it was up to them to make a difference.