—By Khiaw Srihanouvong—
The two ENI communities of Bayou La Batre and Coden, Alabama, are home to a large Asian American population. Residents from Laos, Thailand and Cambodia recently celebrated the L.T.K New Year in America. The event is held in mid-April when the sun enters the constellation of Aries, according to the Hindu calendar.
The New Year’s celebration lasts for three days. On the first day, it is the last day of the old year. This day is the renewal. People will clean and wash their homes and prepare decorations for the temples and festivities. At the end of the day, the elders give blessings to their families by wetting their heads with water. This represents washing away all the bad things.
On the second day, it is called Sangkhan Nao in Lao. It is the day in between the old and new year. This is a day of rest and a time to enjoy with family and friends. In the evening people will celebrate with music, entertainment and plenty of food and drinks. If you like water fights, this is the day to bring your water cannons. Some people end the celebration drenched with water!
The last day of celebration is called Sangkhan Kheun Pii May in Lao. This is the start of the New Year. This day is more traditional; everyone attends the temples to receive blessings from the monks. This is called the Baci ceremony, during which family and friends tie a white string around your wrist. The white strings represent Kwan, or spirits that live within all living things. They tie the white strings to your wrists so that your spirit does not leave and get exposed to bad omens.
Legend has it that a mythical king named Thao Kabinlaphrom lost a bet to a human. He couldn’t solve a three-part riddle and was beheaded. His head was kept inside a mountain and was tended to by his seven daughters. The seven daughters represent the days of the week. Each year one of the daughters brings his head out to be washed. If his head should ever touch the ground, it would mean the destruction of Earth.
So if you ever wonder why there are beauty pageants, it is to select who will be one of the daughters for the New Year.