Thursday, June 10, 2010

Baci Ceremony in Laos

When my wife Nataly started her new job, a baci ceremony was held. It's one of the most important ceremonies in the life of Lao people, I learned. It celebrates any transition, like a new job, a mother giving birth, a new business. There are some rules, and of course they differ from where it's held. In our case in Vientiane, the village chief or eldest will celebrate it. In the middle of all is the Pha Kwan. It's an arrangement made of a silver bowl containing banana leaves, flowers, eggs. White cotton threads are cut at the length long enough to wrap around the adult wrists. These are attached to a bamboo stalk and give the impression of a banner.
The fruits are for the Khwan. Kwan are components of the soul, but have a more abstract meaning than this. The kwan have been variously described by Westerners as: “vital forces, giving harmony and balance to the body.
Preparing for the ceremony is the first steps, others are following, like youngers paying respect to the older ones, touching the Pha Kwan. In our case Nataly and Esther had to hold the white threat, a flower and also a bowl containing eggs and sweet cake. During the ceremony the village eldest is chanting. When he speak to you you have to hold one hand at the ear, as you try to understand him better. I guess its a sign that you actually listen. Later everybody is touching people next to him or her, then holding the cotton threads again. At the end, we received white and orange collar threads on our armwrists. In Laos, white is the color of peace, good fortune, honesty and warmth. The white cotton thread is a lasting symbol of continuity and brotherhood in the community and permanence. The baci threads should be worn for at least three days subsequently and should be untied rather than cut off. Usually it is preferred that they are kept until they fall off by themselves.

More about the ceremony here

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