Across Thailand the celebrations for Songkran, the Thai New Year, have been cancelled. Like with Chinese New Year in China, families in Thailand are showing solidarity for one another by staying at home and celebrating modestly with friends and family.
At Baan Unrak, it’s 11am when Didi is called to the dining hall, and is invited to sit with Zia Caterina and Melek.
The children are all there, sitting cross-legged on the floor, wearing the most colorful clothes they have, as per tradition during Songkran.
It is time for us to pay respect to our elders. This ritual is known as “Rod Nam Dum Hua”, the pouring of scented water onto the palms and feet of our parents and other respected elders. In return, we receive their blessing for happiness in our lives.
The moment is charged with emotion as each child comes to kneel, first in front of Zia, whose tears fall freely as the children thank her, for her love, her time with us, and her colorful presence.
The children then express their gratefulness to Didi. Her hands cup each child’s head gently as they kneel in front of her.
Finally, they shuffle along to Melek, our gentle, soft-spoken nursery teacher, loved and respected by us all. Melek wishes the same for us all, health, strength and happiness in our lives.
We pay respect starting from the smaller child to the bigger, until the adults.
After the ritual, the children run to celebrate Songkran, Thailand’s Water Festival. They fill every water bucket and container they can find, and start splashing water at each other. It’s not long before they are all soaking wet and dancing, joyfully ringing in a Thai New Year!
That morning, Didi had given us a message of Hope and Light:
“All sadness and problems will go away. You will have a very, very good life, with love and care from everybody. This generation is very lucky. You will be so strong. You will be the leaders. You will know how to keep life good. This is the beginning of a new era, a new way of life. You will be powerful, full of knowledge. Never give up. Keep serving all until the last breath of your life.”