Monday, November 27, 2006

Should Christians observe Loi Krathong?

guest post by Samantha

This is a reflection of a Thai Christian in dialogue with a missionary about a Christian's dilemma in observing the traditional festival.

Loi Krathong or Yi Peng is a tradition that has been observed in Chiang Mai (and also in other cities) for almost 700 years now. Stories said that it was started by a royal princess who the first krathong shpated like a lotus as a present for the king during the ceremony of the festival. Since then the krathong became a recent addition and obviously so are firecrackers.

The festival is popularly known as Yi Peng from the word Yi (two) and Peng (full moon) festival (incidentally two full moon in a month is also called "Blue Moon" in other culture). People make krathongs from banana leaves where food, flowers, money, and other offerings are placed on together with lighted candles which they floated on the Ping River in the evening. They also release hot air balloons and lanterns made of saa paper or colored cellophance glued on a rectangular or cylindrical bamboo frame into air. The people believe that khratongs will drive away evil spirits and the prayers offered to the goddess of the river will give them abundant catch.

Yi Peng is celebrated also in the provinces. It is a well-awaited festival which draws not only the residents but also the visitors. The entire city, houses, shops, streets, canals, moats and the river is bedecked with lights and lanterns. The balloons that were released containing small-lighted candles gives a breath-taking scene as these float off into the dark sky. A spectacular sight nobody wanted to miss. Everybody seems to be on the street.

As Christians were taught not to participate in anything that is considered as pagan, we learned from the Old Testament people who always fall short of this law. We believe that "greater is He who is in us that the one who is the world" (1 John 4:4), and that no evil spirit can harm us, for "none can separate us from the love of God. The krathongs then can't do as it promised because of the truthfulness of the Word of God.

Meanwhile what we can do as Christians when it seems that the entire world around us is out there in the streets and celebrating? It was so ordered by our reverend king in the past. Do we want to be an outcast? Our people already branded us as people who embraced the religion of the western people who are actually subtly bringing in their culture, helping us to feel indifferent about our own culture, feeling it inferior against the other? A battle begins in our hearts then, because we believe that these traditions are part of our being, it's part of our culture that shaped our life, and to take these away is almost like renouncing our beginning. As Christians, we may ask then, how did Jesus react in the culture of his time? He surely has the same dilemma. Is He above the culture of His time, or He is beyond the culture?

I can't and I don't want to answer these questions. But let us heed instead on what was considered to be the first missionary has to say, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phi. 2:12-13).

We all have traditions that we followed, some may look ridiculous but our ancestors surely did it with a purpose. Let us take a closer look of our culture and examine it. We may not necessarily have to reject them instead let us find some truths in it and in the light of the word of God, let us act accordingly. The Bible is the source of all truth, it will surely help us.


Lazarus said...

The Town Fiesta is an example of those traditions difficult to part with. I know of some who would rather schedule their family reunions during fiesta time. For us, it's a reunion. For the others, it's still fiesta.

Joey said...

Exactly! You say the exact words that an American missionary answered when asked about celebrating the Town Fiesta. It's up to the locals to decide if they will celebrate it or not. Or better they can have an alternate way of celebrating the festivals and give it a Christian meaning or at least an alternate meaning. However, not many Christians would agree on that, they would think it is too compromising or syncretistic.

John said...

We live in a day and age when all the Sacred Scriptures of the Entire Great Tradition of Humankind are freely available on the internet. And EVERY aspect of every culture, past and present.
ALL of those cultures have their psychic roots extending back hundreds of years before the only "one way" would be world conquering POLITICAL religion of Christianity appeared on the scene.

And besides which if you really do your homework you will find that EVERY aspect of Christianity was a reworking or reformulation of many many bits of the then (already) ancient storehouse of religious & spiritual mythologies etc etc that were in existence at the time.
Including the death & "resurrection"
of a scapegoat "saviour" figure!
How could it possibly have been otherwise?
All religious mythologies in effect are descriptions of the fundamental structures of the body-minds of every human being and the cosmos altogether. They are descriptions of the psycho-anatomy of every person.
The key to understanding any and all religions is ANATOMY not the many towers of abstract BABEL created by egoically self possessed theologian god botherers convicted of their separation from the Love-Bliss-Radiance of Real God.

So what exactly are you doing when you are trying to convert someone, anyone, to your way of thinking?

Have you ever really asked yourself the primal questions?

Who or what am I as a conscious being? Or What is Consciousness?

What is the nature of and my relationship to all of THIS that arises to my awareness? Or what is the nature of energy or light?

Are you transparent to the Love-Bliss-Radiance of Real God?

If not, what is it that you are really bringing to others?