- Television’s Greatest Hits – Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood
The Laotians and Thais have a tradition and ritual that we perform before moving into a new house, as some younger generation no longer practice this, especially those living abroad mainly because they don’t know the tradition. Since I grew up in Laos and Thailand, I really can’t tell which tradition this is, or we both share the same tradition.
The first thing, I was brought up to believe that every place, or land have ghost spirits, and this is called Animism, belief in spirits which coexists with Buddhism, and that spirits are believed to inhabit almost everything, and they can help or harm us. It is believed that ancestor spirits and the local guardian spirits should be informed of any major changes in a person’s life such as sickness, a move, or a marriage. So belief in spirits is very common amongst Lao and Thai people, and one of my favorite ghost stories that was told to me when I was little was the ghost of the banana grove, this is a beautiful female ghost called Tani, and she was given this name because she lives in Tani banana grove. If my imagination served me right, I think this is what she looks like.
Okay, so I choose a drawing by alif_ichi, and to my right is a picture of Miss Thailand from his photostream, I thought her outfit sort of looks like the traditional outfit that is worn by Pee Tani (Tani ghost), it’s been so long since I’ve seen one in a movie, so I vaguely remembered what the outfit looks like (I hope my selection of these 2 photos will not offend anyone, if you’ve a different version, please link me to the photo that you have in mind, thanks in advance). So I side track a bit, I actually want to write about Pee Tani (Tani ghost), I find her to be one of the most fascinating ghosts, but I have so little information about her and might need to do more research.
Back to moving into a new house, it is our custom to let the spirits know that you’re moving into this new house, and ask for protection, and the ceremony is called ‘Sen Wai Jour Teen’, which means asking the ‘Lord of the Land’ and any restless ghosts and spirits in the vicinity for protection. The ceremony consists of offering of food and water (optional), flowers and incense sticks are offered so the ghost will not make trouble and the ‘Lord of the Land’ will bring good luck to the family. This should be done first thing before moving in.
Another ritual is done around 10 AM, this is a ritual that you officially move into a new home, and you need to bring with you three items, rice, water, and knife. The rice and water, so that there will be plentiful and the owners will live in prosperity, and the knife is to protect the family from any evil spirits. Some would also choose to have a Buddha house blessing ceremony, this is a personal choice and not necessary by most, mainly it’s not very convenient because you would have to invite all family and friends, and your new home might not be ready to host such event, most would do this when they are ready, usually a year later.
This is our beliefs, might be strange to some but it does bring comfort to us after performing such ceremony. Then I found out that we’re not the only one that is doing this, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, others are doing it as well. While there may be many customs worldwide associated with housewarming, the most familiar one is that of bringing three items: salt to ensure that life in the new home will always have flavor; bread, so that the homeowners will never go hungry; and wine, so that joy and prosperity will reign forever. The tradition of bringing these three items undoubtedly stems from pre-Christian lore and beliefs, but continues in many parts of the world today.
So we bring rice, water, and knife into our new house, and the Westerners bring salt, bread, and wine. Interesting.