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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Secret Lamphun- 'Salak Yom' Festival

The full moon in mid-late September marks the Tai Yong merit-making festival called 'Salak Yom'. We happened on this colorful event several years ago, not knowing its purpose or name. Only this year have we learned its name and the details. A small Tai Yong population is concentrated in the Lamphun area and the largest and most elaborate manifestation of this celebration is held at the venerable Wat Haripunchai, in the middle of town. It entails the creation of 'trees' by unmarried young women, which are embellished with gifts for the temple and monks for the purpose of making merit. In old times these gifts included gold and silver, but now the custom has evolved to include practical, everyday necessities such as detergent, soup spoons, toilet paper, soap, etc. Money is also included, but in the form of colorful Thai Baht notes. Some of the trees reach a height of 30-40 feet and are wired to prevent toppling in seasonal wind gusts.

 Taking days to construct and erect, the trees draw large crowds both during construction and for the festival. We arrived on the final day, when the temple was thronged with worshippers and monks alike.

 Color and abundance were the themes du jour and the bright midday sun enhanced it brilliantly. 

 At the base of every tree there was a very creative display incorporating symbols of plentitude and piety. Flowers were prolific, as were fish nets and fish traps, for some unexplained reason. These little monk statues also seem to be a new trend, often adorned with eyeglasses (the better to study the manuscripts?).

 These peacocks are made of folded leaves, with flower accents.

Fruit and vegetable displays probably manifested wishes for, or thanks for, plentiful food supplies. Here, yard-long beans are used to great effect under a 'hat' of small eggplants and chilis.

This lively creature is a mythical beast known as 'mawm' and is often seen guarding the entrance to a temple building. This one is covered in scales made of folder paper.


The local Karen tribal people came dressed in their most colorful outfits and fit in beautifully.


And no temple festival is complete without a wide selection of food- including a table full of bugs! 
With signs in English, no less.

If you find yourself in Chiang Mai in September, do mark your calendar for this unique festival - See you there!

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