Cut rice is spread in the field to dry for several days before being arranged in sheaves and taken to the family compound where it is threshed and winnowed. Except in the South where later monsoons arrive late in the year, harvesting usually ends in January or February. Then the farm family then spends time on activities neglected during the rice harvest. Buildings, tools and fences are repaired and secondary crops are either planted or harvested.
The hot dry season after the rice harvest is marked by the important Song-kran festival which celebrates the Hindu god Indra’s annual descent to earth and also marks the beginning of the Buddhist year.
Once the traditional Thai New Year, Song-kran is celebrated with special elan in the North where, because it occurs during a time of relative leisure, it becomes a three to five-day carousel of entertainment and socializing.
House cleaning, sprinkling of Buddha images, memorial ceremonies, merit-making presentations of gifts to monks, elders and spirits, the freeing of caged birds and fish, pilgrimages to holy shrines, parades, dancing and uninhibited, good-natured fes-tivities of water throwing are all synonymous with Songkran.
Around Songkran time, showers signal the dry season’s approaching end and vil-lagers once more prepare for rice planting as one annual cycle ends and another begins.
An unfailing penchant for kwam sanuk combines with natural gregariousness to ensure that both spontaneous and formal leisure activities are vital parts of the Thai village’s social fabric.
Rice cultivation demands consistent hard work, but the communal gatherings that result set the stage for all types of group activities from feasting to courting. Some evenings, after a hard day’s work many villagers, instead of going to bed, gather around bonfires to talk. Young people sing and court. Older people chat, smoke and drink homemade rice liquor, a mild or potent brew depending on the brewer’s skill and ingredients.
There may be a rhyming song contest and lots of friendly banter between young and old as individuals try to outdo each other in composing choruses with familiar themes. Local musicians may play reed instruments, bamboo flutes, hand cymbals and drums to accompany singers, providing either inspiration or sabotage depending on the musicians’ feelings towards each singer.
Ordinations, particularly when families pool resources for a group ceremony, are sometimes celebrated with similar festivity. Enormous feasts are prepared. Electric generators may be rented, a band organized and a folk drama troupe engaged to keep revellers spellbound until the early hours with satirical comic opera performances featuring outrageous puns and double-entendres, sly ribaldry and popular folk
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Article Added on Thursday, January 7, 2010
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