When finally the New Year arrives, all the merriment ceases and it is the day to gain merit. Many visit Buddhist monasteries to offer alms to monks and observe Buddhist rites. Some gather at pagodas to wash Buddha images and clean the pagoda compounds. It is time for the people to visit the elders and pay respect with traditional offering of water in terracotta pot and shampoo. Young people wash the hair of the elderly using the traditional shampoo that consists of shampoo beans (acacia rugata) and bar.
New Year resolutions are also made to mend the ways and doing meritorious deeds for their “karma”. Fish and birds are also released; they are rescued from lakes and rivers drying up under the hot sun, then kept in huge glazed earthen pots and jars before being released into larger lakes and rivers with a prayer and a wish saying “I release you once, you release me ten times”.
Free food is also offered. The typical food at this time of the year is what is called the “small sweet glutinous rice balls” with jaggery (palm sugar) inside thrown into boiling water in a huge wok and served as soon as they resurface (meaning that it’s cooked). All the young men and women help in making it and all are welcome. A refreshing drink is also made at this time of the year – sticky rice with toasted sesame in jaggery syrup and coconut milk. They are both served with grated coconut.
It’s an extremely fun time of the year and also a time when we hope that another year will bring more peace to the world. A HAPPY BUDDHIST NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!