“I think about it a lot because I go against it a lot, and that belief is that you should not nap during–you should not nap or be asleep during when the sun sets. Like, I just heard–she just tells me the–the demons will come for you, basically. Like I don’t even know what it really is, it’s just, like, that you shouldn’t be asleep during that time, because, like, the symbolism of the sun setting could mean that, like, you yourself will die soon if you do things like that.”
Informant (WP) is a student aged 19 from Chino Hills, California. Her parents are from Thailand and Laos. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview in the informant’s apartment. She heard this particular folk belief from her mom, who is from Thailand. The informant interprets this belief to mean you shouldn’t be asleep during this time because you might also go down with the sun.
This belief may be an attempt to prevent children from napping during the sunset. If they nap then, they may stay up late into the night. To prevent this, the parents tell them they might die if they fall asleep while the sun is setting.
“Ok this one’s a festival–there’s–it’s called
Phonetic: Loi Krathong
Transliteration: River Goddess Worship Festival
Translation: Loy Kratong
and it’s like a water festival. You make–how do I describe it in English? You make a float. The word in Thai is
it just means like the float or whatever. It’s kind of like a lantern festival. But yeah, that occurs. Why? It’s like semi-religious, but also Thai people just celebrate it in general, for like, the rainy season. Like the end, the end of the rain. There’s like normal festivities for celebrations, like dance and food, but like the main activity is thanking the water goddess, a water goddess for like the entire season that came before. People also use it for like, good vibes. Where it’s like sending a wish or sending a prayer. You’d make it for someone else; like, ‘oh like for my family to be safe,’ and then you’d send it down the river. When I used to go to temple a lot, like, when I was younger when you would have like the festival everyone does it in like one small pond–cause the temple only has one small pond–and it’s really fun when the pond like fills up and like everyone’s wish is like together. Oh, you also–a big part of it is also making the float, to begin with, which is like made traditionally from like banana leaves. But in America, we make–well, no, not in America–but in the modern age, we use styrofoam, which is the funniest thing to me because the most environmentally damaging thing that you could do is to make it using styrofoam. But you have the plant styrofoam and you put like fake flowers in it if you don’t have like the real thing and then you take like three yellow candles and you put them in it and like make your wish on it.”
Informant (WP) is a student aged 19 from Chino Hills, California. Her parents are from Thailand and Laos. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview in the informant’s apartment. She learned this from family and from going to the temple. To her, it is a way to give gratitude for what a person has and to ask for more.
This festival is very similar to lantern festivals that are prevalent throughout East and Southeast Asia. It is very interesting to see how the festival has changed in the modern era with Thai people being unable to obtain banana leaves in parts of the world and instead resorting to styrofoam. Historically, agriculture has been incredibly important in Thailand. A festival based around thanking a type of water goddess at the end of the rainy season, while also asking for more rain in the future, makes perfect sense for this culture. Add in the variation on lanterns, being floats, and Thailand has a festival that is both related to other Southeast Asian festivals and uniquely Thai.
“Ok it’s a very common one, it’s like, don’t cut your hair after the new year, and I guess just hearing that growing up definitely made me have more of an attachment to my hair. I think like it definitely like–I’m like oh maybe that’s why oh big hair changes can be big changes in your life, or something, because of like hearing my grandma being like ‘oh you need to time your hair cut because you can’t wash away or cut off your good luck.’ So I think that’s why I attribute hair cutting or hair changes to luck or change in life.”
Informant (WP) is a student aged 19 from Chino Hills, California. Her parents are from Thailand and Laos. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview in the informant’s apartment. She heard this particular folk belief from her grandmother who is Lao-Chinese. She thinks people want to attribute meaning to hair since it’s something that’s always with them, so they attribute luck to it.
Although many cultures emphasize looking forward in the new year, this could be an attempt to encourage some to hold on to elements of the past. In this case, their hair. Remembering the past is important when stepping towards the future.
“Ok, this is semi-ritual, semi-ceremony in Thai culture, like with the festival I mentioned earlier, water is really important and so I guess on the Thai new year and also just other sometimes random special occasions water will be used to like give–bless, bless your elders. So what happens is like you normally have this golden or like silver bowl, I’m forgetting what it’s called, but you have like a bowl and you fill it with flowers and water, and you take like a smaller little bowl. Oh I remember its called a
Transliteration: Water dipper
and you just scoop a little bit and your elders (your parents and your grandparents) would hold their hands out and you would pour water over their hands. And when you do that you are supposed to say good things like ‘I wish you good health,’ and with the Thai new year obviously you would say ‘I wish you good luck or good health for the next year.’ And the water is representing like forgiveness and you’re also asking for their forgiveness for, like, all the bad stuff you may have done to them in the past year. So there’s that. And it also becomes relevant during like a funeral when like you will similarly pour water onto the deceased hands when they’re in like the casket. And similarly, when you approach them you are supposed to ask for forgiveness for any wrongings you’ve done to them throughout their entire life and you just kinda pray for them and wish them good luck whatever happens to them after their death.”
Informant (WP) is a student aged 19 from Chino Hills, California. Her parents are from Thailand and Laos. She currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview in the informant’s apartment. She learned this from her parents and her extended family. She interprets it to represent forgiveness and cleansing.
Water is used to represent the cleansing of a moral sense in different cultures’ beliefs around the world. Where this one differs is in the belief that the person washing is being forgiven, not the person being washed. The water in the ritual does seem to represent forgiveness and cleansing, and when it’s done seems to align with the amount of time associated with the forgiveness. At the new year, it is used to forgive a year’s worth of wrongdoing. At a funeral, it’s used for a life’s worth.
“Some story like
Transliteration: Yugong Moves Mountains
Translation: The Foolish Old Man Removes the Mountains
is basically about–there’s an old guy and there was a huge mountain in front of his house and it was very hard to climb it but one day he start moving it and eventually he move the whole mountain.”
Informant (CQ) is a student aged 19 from Shanghai, China. He attended high school in the U.S. and currently goes to USC. This piece was collected during an interview over dinner in the dining hall. He learned the story from a Chinese fairy tale book when he was in elementary school. He sees the meaning to be that a person can do whatever they put their mind to.
This story demonstrates that through hard human work, anything is possible. This story is embraced by the Chinese government and taught in elementary schools most likely to encourage this message: that the Chinese people can do anything they put their minds to.