Friday was the start of Chinese New Year and little did I know that on New Years Eve whoever celebrates this holiday goes shopping to have their new purchase for New Years Day. I decided to go shopping for some of our new home essentials not realizing that everyone in Bangkok would be shopping… Needless to say it was a mad house at Big C (the Thailand Walmart) but because it is the New Year they had some great sales!
Saturday is our sightseeing day and we thought it would be a good idea to go to Chinatown for the New Year festivities. We heard that it’s a bad idea to go to Chinatown on the new year with a kid because of the crowds in addition that it would take half the day to get there because of the traffic. With the temperature feeling like it is 100 degrees outside and with a child that needs his nap we decided against it. Instead we decided to take it easy and visit a sight that was right off of Sukhumvit and directly under the BTS, the Erawan Shrine.
We were told that on New Year’s Day people that celebrate this holiday usually spend the day with family and visit shrines and temples to leave their offerings for the gods. So our change of plans actually worked out well for us to see the many people at the shrine giving their offerings and praying for the new year.
History lesson: The Thai religion is a combination of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Animism. This shrine houses a statue of the Hindu god Brahma, the creation god, and Erawan, his elephant. This shrine was build for the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. ( I will explain more about what I have learned about the spirit houses in my next post but here is the back story for this shrine). When a new building is built in Thailand the builders also erect a spirit house, this houses the spirits that are disturbed by creating the new building. The Grand Hyatt started construction in the 1950s along with the spirit house but because there were issues on the worksite the spirit doctors were called in to reassess. The spirit doctors instructed hotel management to create a new spirit house and this is how the Erawan Shrine came to be! When this new shrine was created the construction of the building completed without a hitch. (Information from The Rough Guide to Bangkok)
(Better pictures to come soon)
Crazy fact about the shrine: In 2006, a Muslim thought it would be a good idea to take a hammer to the statue of Brahma. Clearly not a good idea, could you imagine someone walking into your church during your service or your prayer and taking a hammer to the cross? An angry mob formed and beat the man to death in the street, right off of the main road! They quickly gathered the pieces of the statute and created a new statute using the remains to preserve the spirit of the Brahma. (Information from The Rough Guide to Bangkok)
Below are pictures of the shrine and the statue. You will see many people lighting incense and candles, placing flowers on the shrine, releasing small boxes of birds, and (obviously) praying. The pictures of the wooden elephants, from what we can gather, are offerings to the shrine that are given by families. We have seen many small statues of elephants that people give to the shrine as an offering but never any this big but that could be because it is the NewYear. These are beautiful, solid wood statues that took a hand truck and three big men to move just one of them into place.
When we returned home from our outing we found red envelopes on our pillows. This is another Chinese New Year tradition, Chris heard that the older family members will give these envelopes with money inside to children on New Years Day. See picture below for an explanation of the envelope!