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Giving Thanks in Thailand: The Festival of Lanterns

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While Americans are braving grocery stores for last-minute thanksgiving items, fighting legendary traffic, and snoozing through football games after turkey bliss, different traditions will be practiced on the other side of the world. From November 24th until November 28, the people of Thailand will celebrate the Loi Krathong festival. The largest celebration is in the Thai city of Chiang Mai. Activities include the procession of hanging lanterns, fireworks display, Miss Noppamas beauty contest, light and sound presentations, arts and culture performances and the Krathong desire contest. It’s kind of a big deal.

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Loi Krathing has been celebrated for centuries in Thailand, always between the middle of the eleventh lunar month and the middle of the twelfth lunar month (November). When the full moon shines on the rivers, everything is able to be seen more clearly. The celebration was once called Chong Pa Rieng, which means “floating lantern of royal ceremony.” It was a Brahman festival to worship the Gods. However, when the Thai people converted to Buddhism, they kept this ceremony because of its cultural heritage and altered it to worship the footprint of the Buddha on Nammathanati river beach in India.

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“Loi” in English means “floating”, while “Krathong” translates to “decoration”. The tradition of floating Krathongs along the river specifically was started by Nag Noppamas, who was the favorite concubine of the Sukhothai king. She made large, lotus shaped Krathongs, and the king floated them along the river. He made it law from that point on, that the kings of Siam were to keep this tradition to worship the footprint of the Buddha on Nammathanati River.

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Traditionally, the Krathong are made from the trunk of a banana tree, or a spider lily plant. Today it is more common for Krathongs to be made of bread or styrofoam. Styrofoam is often banned because it is not biodegradable and cannot be eaten by fish. The floats are decorated with banana leaves folded in elaborate shapes, incense sticks and candles. On the night of the full moon, Thai people launch their Krathongs on a river, canal or pond and make a wish.

lanterns

There is also a Lanna (Northern Thai) festival known as Yi Peng. In this celebration, sky lanterns (Khom Loi) are launched into the air. They look like large groups of Jellyfish. These lanterns are usually made from rice paper or other thin fabric, which a candle is attached to. The lantern will float into the air because of the hot air trapped inside the lantern when the candle is lit. The Lanna people will also decorate their homes, gardens and temples with “Khom Fai” which are paper lanterns that do not float. These lanterns are very detailed in shape. There are also lanterns that hang from sticks and are carried around. These are called “Khom Thue”.

Yi Peng was traditionally celebrated on a full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar, but is now celebrated during Loi Krathong, as a part of the large festival in Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is the ancient capital of the former Lanna Kingdom. The result of both holidays being celebrated at the same time is an awesome display of candles, lights, lanterns and decorations filling the waters and the skies.

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One Loi Krathing festival website provides this list of reasons for celebrating:

  1. To ask for forgiveness Pra Mae Khongkha because we use and drink water. Moreover, we often throw rubbishes and excrete wasted things in the water.
  2. To worship the footprint of the Buddha on Nammathanati River beach in India.
  3. To fly away misfortune and bad things like floating sin- Bhrama ceremony.
  4. To pay respect to Uppakhud whom mostly northern villagers show their gratitude. According to legend, he was a monk who was supernatural to kill Mara.

According to Wikipedia, the official reasons for Thanksgiving are as follows:

It has been an annual tradition since 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”. This was after the day had already been an American tradition since the first pilgrims feasted with over 90 Native Americas, to give thanks for their health, safety, and good fortune.

While the specific traditions of Thanksgiving and Loi Krathong/ Yi Peng contrast greatly, the main ideas are complimentary. This last week of November, the people of both America and Thailand will be paying respect to the gift of life, and asking for seconds.

Lotus: The Sacred Flower of Peace and Love

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Your home is your haven. Why not fill it with signs of peace, harmony and healing? In Asia, the Lotus leaf is a symbol of exactly those things.

These beautifully unique wall panels are covered in real Lotus leaves from Thailand. The leaves have been covered by hand with acrylic resin and gilt in gold dust. The leaves vary in size, shape and color and no two are alike. Colored richly with gold, rust, crimson, and forest green, these panels add instant warmth to a room. The autumnal aesthetic of the colors conjures up the traditional festivity of the New England Holiday season, and blend seamlessly together with harmonic, Eastern imagery.

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In Thailand, a Buddhist country, the Lotus, or “Bua”, is a sacred flower to the people, because it is the traditional flower of Buddhism. There is a legend that the Lord Buddha was able to walk at birth, and that when he took his first seven steps, Lotus blooms opened up from underneath to support his feet. In murals around the globe, the Buddha is portrayed surrounded with Lotus blossoms.

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The Lotus, being a water flower, is rooted in mud, and grows up above the dirty water, into a flower of great beauty. This is used as a metaphor for mans attempt to rise above his earthly existence to attain spiritual purity.

“He who is low-born may develop and improve himself like the lotus growing out of the mire. The followers of the Buddha shine above others through their wisdom like the lotus.” – Buddhist Doctrine

The Lotus is also shown surrounding many deities in the religion of Brahmanism, which is connected to Thai history. Brahman Goddesses are often holding Lotus blossoms in their hands.

LOTUS

In traditional herbal medicine, the Lotus leaf is used to aid in digestion, alleviate fever, heal bruises, reduce muscle spasms and stop bleeding. One of its most common uses is to ease dizziness and nausea. Nearly every part of the Lotus flower is edible. A popular Thai sweet is made up of dried Lotus seeds boiled in Syrup and added to crushed ice.

Here is a delicious and fairly simple recipe to try, Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf:

  • 3-4 cups sticky rice (uncooked)
  • 1 cup chinese sausage, cut up into bite size pieces
  • 3 dried black shiitake mushrooms, soak and cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh shrimp, cleaned
  • 3 salted egg yolks (optional), cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 4-5 dried lotus leaves
  1. Soak lotus leaves for 30 minutes, weighing down with a small bowl if necessary. Fry Chinese sausage. Set aside.
  2. Steam sticky rice using a little less water than usual for firm rice. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Put oil into pan and fry garlic until turning golden-yellow. Add rice, mushroom, shrimp, and soy sauce. Stir until all ingredients are cooked.
  4. Pat dry softened lotus leaf and brush back of the leaf lightly with oil. Cut leaf in half. Put half the rice mixture on one leaf and top with salted egg. Wrap rice in a rounded bundle. Repeat with the other half. Either cook immediately or store in fridge for later use.
  5. Steam 10-12 minutes.
  6. Cut salted egg yolk into half. Put Chinese sausage and egg yolk on top. Serve.

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The Edge on Live Edge Furniture

Looking to add a bold, statement piece to your home decor, without sacrificing sophistication? You must be dreaming of live edge.

When the natural edge of a piece of wood is incorporated into furniture design, it is called Live Edge. Unlike conventional woodworking, Gnarly wood such as Alligator Juniper, mesquite, and Salvaged wood is often used in live edge design. The natural holes and cracks of the wood can be featured, or filled in with resin for a smoother look. Live edge is a combination of Western and Rustic furniture styles.

Every live edge slab is completely unique, and offers undeniable wow factor. At the same time, this style is understated and graceful, rooted in obvious organic nature.

Also known as Natural edge, or Free Edge, this style of furniture design originally drew from Modernism, Japanese and Shaker influences. It was first made famous by renowned woodworker, furniture maker, and architect George Nakashima. Nakashima was a Japanese American who studied Architecture at M.I.T., and traveled through Japan, Paris and India studying design. George began developing his signature free edge style while apprenticing for an elderly woodworker at an internment camp during World War 2.

Live edge bench by George Nakashima

After the camp, Nakashima moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he continued to focus on the organic expressiveness of wood, approaching his work with meticulous focus and patience. He later went on to start the American Craft movement.

In 1962, Nakashima wrote a manifesto, discussing the vanishing of excellence in the design world of the modern day, and his appreciation and respect for hard work, craftsmanship, and the profound beauty of nature.

“In a world where manual skills are shunned we believe in them, not only in the act of producing a better product, but in the sheer joy of doing or becoming. We feel that pride in craftsmanship, of doing as perfect a job as possible, of producing something of beauty even out of nature’s discards, are all homely attributes that can be reconsidered.

It might even be a question of regaining one’s own soul when desire and megalomania are rampant – the beauty of simple things…”

At Mohr & McPherson, we understand Nakashima’s passion for the story telling powers of furniture and organic materials. We really love the live edge aesthetic, and currenty feature several pieces from Thailand and Indonesia. Our live edge furniture celebrates the rich beauty of teak and acasia woods.

41421Teak live edge dining table

Owner Kevin McPherson describes his discovery of the log used for four of our massive teak live edge dining tables:

“Approximately 60 years ago, a very old teak tree fell in the jungle near the Thailand/Burma border. A Thai man obtained permission and permits from the government to remove the tree and hired an elephant team to haul it to the road. 

While I was traveling, I came across this tree as it was being moved by truck to Chaing Mai, Thailand. I negotiated the purchase of the 24-foot log and had four tables made of the center of it.

This naturally aged and dried Teak wood is very rare and was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”