Merit Making For Queen’s Birthday
Today, people from all over Thailand are celebrating Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s 78th birthday. Like people in other regions of the country, many locals from Samut Prakan dressed in blue today which is the colour for Friday, the day that Her Majesty was born. Several thousand local people came together at the parade ground next to the Provincial Hall at 7 a.m. this morning to offer food to several hundred Buddhist monks from three local temples.
The ceremony was opened by Mr. Surachai Kanasa, the Governor of Samut Prakan Province. He first paid homage to a Buddha image and then took part in chanting. Attending the event were many local government officials who all came together to pay homage to Her Majesty. A similar event was being held at the same time in Bangkok at Sanam Luang. H.M. The Queen is regarded as a mother to all Thai people as they love her so much. Since 1976, this day has also been celebrated as National Mother’s Day.
After the chanting had finished, the Governor led the local people in giving alms to several hundred monks. Tables had been set up around the parade ground and local people had gathered behind them since early morning. They did this to make merit on behalf of H.M. The Queen. To make the most merit, the food should have been prepared by themselves before they arrived and not bought at a food stall. Leftovers from the night before must never be given to monks.
The local people stood behind the tables as the monks slowly made their way down the row. People were giving fresh food as well as pre-prepared packages such as pot noodles. As some of these items were too big for the alms bowls, each of the monks were assisted by temple boys who carried big sacks. The monk then emptied their bowls into these sacks. By the end of the alms giving event, the pick-up trucks from the temples were full with sacks of food. Local people also gave the monks purple orchid flowers and also envelopes containing money.
After the alms giving had finished, Mr. Surachai Kanasa and local people made merit for H.M. The Queen by releasing 1,000,000 sea creatures into the Chao Phraya River. This is a common event done to make merit for birthdays. People usually release birds or fish. I thought that 1,000,000 was a staggering number to release in one go, but it turned out to be very small shrimps. These were in plastic bags which people emptied out into a large tub of water. From this there was a pipe which washed the shrimps out into the river below.