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  Holidays Celebrate in November!
Come celebrate with us as we explore the many holidays celebrated in Asian countries each month!
The Folklore of World Holidays
by Margaret Read McDonald, Editor. Gale Research Inc., 1992

Mid-Winter painting by Tomoko Kajiura * * * November * * *

This celebration, held at Shinto shrines in November, is dedicated to "The Great Bird," the sacred crow that perched on the long bow of the first Mikado and guided him out of the wilderness by the light from its shining wings.

"Tori-no-ichi" literally translates to Bird Fair. A play on words, this term signifies gain, as most of the influential members of this Shinto sect are speculators and wealthy merchants, and they accept as the mascot of this fair or market a "kumade" - bear hand - which is an ordinary bamboo rake, so called for its widespread prongs resembling the outreaching clutching claws of a bear's hand.

This is why you will see many people on the streets carrying bamboo rakes during this celebration. Fastened on these rakes are good luck emblems, with Okame, the goddess of good nature or Laughing Goddess, hanging in the center of each emblem.

Source:   Chiyo's Return by Chiyono Sugimoto Kiyooka. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1936, pp. 327-328.

Boun Phan Vet

This festival honors Prince Vessantara, an incarnation of the Lord Buddha. The holiday is celebrated at different times depending on location. In Vientiane, the capital, the holiday takes on the status of a national rite and is held in the twelfth month (November) to honor the traditional repository of the Buddha's relics at That Luang temple.

These rites commemorate Lao origins and historical events, but are not always celebrate outside of the capital. Outside Vientiane, the Boun Phan Vet is celebrated as a feast honoring Prince Vessantara, an earlier incarnation of Buddha. The prince, who exemplified perfect charity and detachment, is honored by the ordination of village males into the sangha. Also during this festival, dramas and contests of love songs are held in the wat courtyard. There are also village cockfights and banquets and various social gatherings.

In northern Laos, balloon lanterns are constructed out of paper. These are cylindo-spherical in shape and a small gondola of rattan cane is suspended from them by a cotton thread. In the gondola there is an oil cup filled with lard holding two or three lit cotton wicks, providing the hot air for the balloons.

Since they are generally launched in the evening at the time of the great holiday of the twelfth month (October - November), the absence of wind often makes it possible to follow their course as long as the wicks continue to give off light.

Sources:   Laos: A Country Study by Donald P. Whitaker et al. Foreign Area Studies, Washington, D.C. The American University, 1971, p. 123. Le Laos by Lucien Reimach. Human Relations Area Files translated. Paris: A. Charles, Librarie-Editeur, 1901, p. 149.

Loi Krathong

This is a thanksgiving for the gift of waters to Me Khongkha, Mother of the Waters. Loi means "to float." Krathong means "leaf cup," or "bowl." On this night, paper or leaf bowls, shaped like the lotus, are set on the water to float slowly away. Each contains a candle, four joss sticks, and flowers. Nang Nophames, wife of King Ramamkhamhaeng of Sukhotai, is said to have orginated this custom about eight hundred years ago.

Today some Thai contend that it is performed to atone for the sin of boating over the footprints or images of Buddha which may be imbedded in the sands of the waterways. Others say that this is a ritual to appease the river spirits, including the Goddess Me Khongkha, the mother of water. Khongkha is the same word as the Indian "Ganga" or "Ganges," but in Siamese it generally means water. Since man has polluted the water, it is only proper to ask her pardon at this time.

It is no longer celebrated widely in the Bangkok region, but is still a major festival in the north. Still another belief is that the Loi Krathong is neither a Buddhist nor Brahman ceremony, but merely a time for rejoicing.

In Bangkhuand villages, Loi Krathong (Floating Leaf Cup) is held at the end of the rainy season of the 15th day of the waxing moon in the twelfth lunar month (November). According farmers in villages, the purpose of krathong is to pay tribute to the river (Phramaskhongkha), and to pay tribute to the snake (Phrajanag), who resides at the bottom of the canal.

Sources:   Village Life in Modern Thailand by John E. de Young. Berkeley: Univ. of California, 1955, pp. 139-140. Bangkhuad: A Community Study in Thailand by Howard Keva Kaufman. Locust Valley, N.Y.: J.J. Augustin, 1960, pp. 195-196. Essays on Thai Folklore by Phya Anuman Rajadhon. Bangkok: Thai Inter-Religious Commission for Development & Sathirakoses Hagapradipa Foundation, 1988, pp. 54-56.

November 1
All Saints' Day

A feast honoring the dead, an extended family living in the barrio might hold a family reunion at this time. The tomb of the dead is whitewashed, weeds are removed, plastic flowers are displayed, and candles are lit. The focus is on the meeting of relatives and friends from out of town while feasting on sweets and other delicacies.

One of the most common reasons for an unexplained illness is attributed by the aibuiaryo, herb doctor, to the failure to remember a relative's tomb. Thus the arch at the entrance to a cemetery in the barrio might commonly state: "To honor the dead is to serve the living."

Source:   My Friends in the Barrios by Dr. Juan M. Flavier. Quezon City: New Day, 1974, p. 19.

Circa November 6-8
Water Festival
Cambodia/Kampuchea/Khmer Republic

This festival formerly celebrated the king's birthday. It now commemorates the reversal of current in the Tonle Sap, a large lake area that feeds the Mekong.

November 15
Shichi-go-san (Seven-Five-Three)

Three-year old children, five-year old sons, and seven-year old daughters may be taken to a local shrine for a blessing on this day.

Japanese children who are three, five, or seven years old, dress in their best clothes and are taken to a shrine to be given blessings towards health, wealth, and long life. Given long sacks of pink candy, this thousand year candy is suppose to bring them good luck and a long life.

Sources:   Visit with Us in Japan by Joan Pross Larson. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964, p. 65. Chiyo's Return by Chiyono Sugimoto Kiyooka. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1936, pp. 327-328.

Tasaungmon Full Moon

This festival commemorates the return of Gautama Buddha from his visit to heavenly Tawadeintha to visit his mother's reincarnated spirit. Here he shares the wisdom that he attained through enlightenment. The holy men of that realm held tapers to light his way back to earth, lining his path on either side. As at Thangingyut, homes and shopes are again illuminated.

On the night of the full moon, Buddha preached the discourse of the advantages of the life of a monk to King Ajatasattu. In celebration of this, the Sutta is recited on Tazaungmon full moon night.

While Buddha was residing at Nigrodha monastery in Kappilavastu, his stepmother Mahapazapati Gautami offered him a robe she had woven. On that occasion Buddha said that offering robes to the Sagha was the same as offering robes to the Buddha. Thus began the tradition of weaving robes overnight and offering them to the Sagha during this time.

Another tradition is that of sending up fire balloons. The story goes that Prince Theidat left his palace and his wife to become a Buddha. Riding as far as the Anawma River, he leaped over it with his famous steed Kantika. Then he drew his sword, cut off his long hair and threw it into the air, where it remained suspended until the Tha-gya-min carried it off in a basket and had his Sulamani shrine built over it. Hence the offering of fire balloons.

Sources:   Embassy of the Union of Myanmar. Southeast Asia:   A Cultural Study Through Celebration by Phil Scanion, Jr. De Kalb, Ill.:   Northern Illinois Univ. 1985, pp. 126-177. "The End of Lent" in The Burman:   His Life and Times. London: Macmillan, 1910, pp. 223-230.

"Mid-Winter" painting by Tomoko Kajiura. To view Nihon-ga's gallery, or for further information, please click on the banner below.
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