New Year Custom of Thai or Tai (Thai Yai)
by admin — last modified 2008-10-03 03:16
The Shan New Year this year falls on 28 November. The following article is contributed by one of the most well-known writers among Shans.
By Mahamung (Moeng zae)3 October 2008
Man, no matter which race or tribe they are from, used to live in groups and later evolved to live in communities. After some time, the group leaders evolved to become local governments for their communities. After that, customs of each tribe were born and the customs were followed by the people of each tribe. This created peace and harmony for the communities and societies. As time passed, different customs were born to different tribes and races according to the livelihood and societies of the people. Among the many customs people of the communities follow each year is Thaloengsok (beginning the new era) or the New Year Celebration Custom.
Tai New Year.
Of the many Tai races such as Thai, Lao, Yon (Yonok), Tai, Khuen, Lue, Lem, Nung, Mao and Ahom, the majorities are spread among different places and countries. But there is one thing unique among these peoples. That is, the celebration of New Year’s Day in all countries and places on the same day. New Year’s Day falls on the first waxing day of the first Lunar Month or Lern Ai, according to the Lunar Calendar. (This normally falls in the middle of November every year. But New Year’s Day also falls in the middle of December in Athikamart Year or Lunar Leap Year. This happens when there are thirteen months in the lunar year. The extra month is called the intercalary month and is the Second “Eight Month”. Since the ancient times, all the peoples of the Tai Race had marked the First Day of Lern Ai as New Year’s Day. ( Some Tai races will call Lern Ai as Lern Kiang or Lern Ziang. But Lern Ai is known to all.).
Tai New Year or Thai Yai New year.
The Tai, or Tai Yai name the twelve months of the year, by using the twelve-year-cycle names. The twelve-year-cycle year-names are 1, Jai (Rat); 2, Pao (Ox); 3,Yee (Tiger); 4, Mao (Rabbit); 5, Si (Big Snake); 6, Sai (Small Snake); 7, Si-nga (Horse); 8, Mait (Goat); 9, San (monkey); 10, Rao (Rooster); 11, Sait (Dog); 12, Gai (Pig). Tai Yai call this system as Lak Ni. The custom of naming the children also bases on this year-name system. Thus, when giving names to sons, starting from the eldest down to the youngest, will be, Ai, Yee, Sarm, Sai, Ngo, Lok et-cetera. Daughters will be named as, Yea, Ee, Arm, Ay, Oh, Oak and so on. When there are more than twelve the names will re-start again from Ai or Yea again.
As Tai or Thai Yai created the twelve-year names or Lak Ni system by basing on the twelve-year-cycle, New Year’s Day has been considered to be on the first day of the first waxing month of Lern Ai or Lern Jai since then. As for the year era, Tai Yai call Pi Muang, the Tai New Near in 2551 B.E. coincides with the year 2103 of Pi Muang era. The year 2103 is the era accepted by Tai Yai, Tai Mao and some part of Tai Nua.
The Origin of Pi Muang or Tai Yai Era.
According to Burmese history, Chinese annals and some Tai Yai experts, Pi Muang or Tai Yai Era started from the reign of Sao Khun Yee, the second son of Oo Ti Fah, the ruler of Nawng Sae. In 94 B.C. or 450 B.E., Sao Khun Yee and a number of his followers cruised down the Salween River (Nam Khoang), settled near the Mao River and built a town. The Mao River was called Huai Li in the old days. Pronunciation later, distorted to Shwe Li or Ruili.
So, Tai, Tai Mao and part of Tai Nua accepted the year Sao Khun Yee established a new Kingdom on the Mao River as the start of the Tai era or Year Zero. The Tai Era has been accepted by Tai since then. In 2551 B.E. the Thai Yai Era or Pi Muang will enter Year 2103. Tai people call the New Year in the 2551 B.E. as Lak Ni Kat Pao, Pi Muang 2103 or Tai Era 2103. (Note: B.E. 2551 minus 450 is Tai Era 2103. Counting in the year 2008 A.D. or 2551 B.E. the Tai Kingdom was established 2102 years ago. ) In conclusion, Tai Era is 450 years behind Buddhist Era and 94 years before Christian Era. This Pi Muang or Tai Era is used by Tai Luang (Tai Yai) and Tai Mao only and is not concerned with other Tai Sub-Groups. But Lak Ni or Pi Kat Pao twelve-year-cycle system is used by all Tai Sub-Groups and consider Lern Ai as the first month of the year.
New Year Tradition or Phing Gaw Jiang.
The New Year tradition is called Phing Gaw Jiang (Zeing in Tai Yai). It consists of four main parts The first part is “Pai Jiang Tradition.” The first part is to wait (Pai means to wait), wish and prepare the welcoming of Lern Ai on the 15th waning day of the Twelfth month. This is the last day of the old year. The second part is called Pai Jiang Tradition. “Paai” means to pray. Paai Jiang means to pray, pay respect and pay offerings to Lern Ai which is the firsr month of the year. This is practiced on the first day of the first month of the New Year. In the past officials were given promotion on this day. Prizes were given to those who contributed to society. But at present days, rites are done in the morning. There are preaching and sermons of teachings. This consists of Jataka, local folktales and seminars on culture and traditions. The third part is Eating of Jiang (kin Jiang in Tai). This means feasting. This is offering meals to elders, seniors and relatives. The feast also consists of boiled rice in banana leaf cones (Kao Tomp Lem), pounded sticky rice with round sesame (Kao Pook Nga) and sticky rice with cane jaggery (Kao Ya Gu ). The fourth or final part is called Len Jiang or playing Jiang. This includes celebrating in the evening. There will be singing contests, dancing the Kinnara ( Bird Dance or Kinnara and Kinnari ), the Toe Dance (Mythical four legged creature with horns), Sword Dance and Pole Dance.
Proverb; Sao Um Yawng, Khawng Um Ka (If you don’t value it, it will be worthless; meaning if one doesn’t appreciate, promote, conserve and value one’s custom it will become worthless in the future)
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