During periods of intensive fieldwork, the entire family rises before dawn and all able-bodied members leave for the fields as soon as possible. Schools are closed during rice planting and harvesting times. Those schoolchildren not old enough to work remain at home to help grandparents look after younger brothers and sisters. The rest of the family eats in the fields, staying there until dusk. During harvest time, work may continue well into the night by lamplight, and, rather than return home, some villagers prefer to sleep In temporary field shelters.
Daily tasks are generally divided equally between husband and wife. Women normally tend the household, but work the fields during planting and harvesting. Men-folk perform heavy tasks and fieldwork, fetch water and occasionally clean their own clothes. Thai village men are often very good cooks, and sometimes help prepare the food for festivals.
The seasonal cycle
The rice planting season usually begins in April or May with the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Bangkok, presided over by His Majesty the King. This Brahmanic rite symbolizes the attention Indra and Vishnu (represented by the King) give to the agricultural season's beginning. School-children are on holiday during this, the hottest time of the year and, countrywide, farm labour braces for the gargantuan effort of hand-planting rice in a way that would have been familiar to their ancestors, and their ancestors before them.
By far the most important of all crops, rice profoundly affects Thai life. It Is the principal food for humans and animals throughout the country. Whether distilled into liquor, or loo khao, celebrated at religious festivals or metamorphosed into sweets and noodles, rice and Its cultivation comprise a central pillar of Thai life. Kin khao, the Thai expression for “to eat”, literally means, “to eat rice”. Rice provides major government revenues, and for centuries has been Thailand’s export.
In a widespread, complex pattern of communal co-operation, farmers prepare their fields, repair bunds, plough with water buffaloes, and, finally, flood their fields with water from surrounding streams, ditches or canals. Farmers and their wives then cooperate to transplant rice seedlings into each family's prepared fields. With every active family member working the fields, older people cook meals, care for small children and prepare religious offerings.
Visakkha Bucha, the year’s greatest religious holiday, which commemorates the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death, comes during seeding and ploughing. Village elders attend temple celebrations and sermons during the day. Those who have been working all day in the fields return at dusk to join the lovely candle or torchlit procession that circumambulates the temple chapel three times. Enacted in every village, town and city wat, each person carries a flower, a glowing incense stick and a lighted candle in silent homage to the Buddha, his teaching and his disciples.
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Article Added on Thursday, January 7, 2010
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