Thursday, 13 December 2007

Puang Reeds

What be a Puang Reed I hear thou asketh? A PR is the Thai term for an elaborate funeral decoration such as these. I like to think of them as Ree Rees though because "puang" translates to "wreath" in English and "reed" is directly from wreath... so it is literally a wreath wreath (which is just no fun to pronounce) hence my reerees analogy. Although these glad-wrapped cardboard thingamewhatsits look completely odd and very different from anything you'd see at a western funeral, they originate from floral wreaths which we are more familiar. The new modern form, which I personally find less attractive than the real flower deal (but is much cheaper) is made of towels placed in symbolic forms, surrounded by lace or an umbrella surrounded by plastic flowers which can surprisingly be quite attractive. The writing splashed across the front is the people's name who are donating the faux flora. The boards are displayed at the funeral and afterward are either donated to the temple for monks to utilize (brollies and towels), burned with the body (although not common practice) or are 'given' back to other people needing them for the next funeral (after a cash donation to the temple of course!). You have NO idea how many funerals there are in village Thailand. Coming from a sparsely populated country myself where you only go to close friends or family funerals I had only been to 2 funerals in my whole life, then coming here where I have been to about 50 in less than 3 years is quite a dramatic change. Huge population, huge families and close villagers all equate to your presence being required at a lot of funeral parties.

Last night we were called upon by the local funeral commentator (job opening anyone?) to write up a couple of signs for a dearly departed's funeral today. The dude dropped off 4 boards which we started writing the names, however 5 minutes into it we were distracted by other business. After about 10 minutes we refocused on the task only to find the boards were missing! How the hellaboo can 4, metre high boards just disappear? After searching the house high and low they were finally located in the corner of the garage! Not surprisingly J's mother had silently removed them from the room (lightning fast on tippy toes!). Thais are notoriously known for being superstitious, particularly regarding ghosts. You can't keep puang reeds inside your house...they are for the dead so it is obviously a very bad thang to attract the ghosts into your humble home. Who knew that only a few minutes of inattention would attract so many otherworlders... J's ma is obviously in the know (or just plain crazy ahem hem). Anyhoo, after wacking up a few signs they were duly put in their rightful place in the garage so as not to disturb the dead...or undead for that matter.

You just never know what kind of job is going to be thrown at you here!

4 commentaramas:

Carol and Chris said...

Blimey - 50 funerals in three years!! That's a lot of funerals!!

My downstairs neighbour had to attend a Thai funeral last week and she told me that she needs to go back to the temple to attend the same funeral in 60 days time. You any idea why she needs to do this? (I did ask her but she is as baffled as I am)

C x

Mel said...

Yeah, sometimes it's depressing attending 3 in one week. Had that happen a couple of times! If someone dies who is 65+ everyone says they've had a good life, they're old. I just don't see 65 as being really old. My grandma is 89 and fighting fit..she still drives (although not much - just to get her hair done!).

The 60 day thing is up to the family..it's usually 100 day memorial ceremony which is very common in Thailand but the timing is up to the fam. Memorial and possibly to put the ashes in a small pagoda thingy. BTW could have been exaggerating a wee bit with the 50 (but certainly not by much ;-D

Carol and Chris said...

Ahhh - I suppose that makes sense in a weird kind of way. Thanks Mel - I'm seeing her tonight so will tell her :-)

C x

Mel said...

Funny the people across the street just celebrated the 100 days of their father the night before last (remember the old dude funeral post about karaoke). Celebrations obviously included more karaoke!