Every home. But my daughter is not coming

Every year in August, on a day locally called War
Kaung, we celebrate the annual wrist tying ceremony in Myanmar. This is a celebration
on the day of the full moon, as many of our traditional festivals are, in the
fifth month of the Buddhist Burmese calendar, and meant to be a day of loving,
kindness, friendship and forgiveness.


It is a very special festival for all Kayin
people, an ethnic group which lives mostly in the south and southeastern part
of our country, and is a celebration rooted in animistic beliefs. During this
festival, young people receive white wrist ties from their elders, which is
believed to drive away all obstacles and evil spirits they may face, and bring
good luck, health and strength to their body and soul.

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“This year, I will go to the Kyauk Ka Latt pagoda
with my granddaughter Lay Pyay. She will receive blessings and get her wrist
tie. It is meant to protect her from harm and bad luck and ensure to bring back
all good luck.” Daw Aye One, member of the sponsorship supported Early Learners
committee in her community and grandmother of 4-year-old Lay Pyay, tells us. In
her role as a committee member, Daw Aye One helps raise awareness in her
community about the importance of early education for children Lay Pyay’s age,
encouraging them to send their own children and grandchildren to classes. She
also helps oversee the classroom, assisting teachers and making sure the
environment is clean and safe for the young students.


On the day of the festival, everyone in the
community wore their best colorful, uniquely patterned traditional costumes and
woven longyi, a type of cylindrically
shaped clothe worn around the waist in Myanmar. “It is the time everyone comes
back home. But my daughter is not coming back from the Thailand border this
year,” Daw Aye One says sadly. In Hpa An, it is very common for parents to
travel to nearby Thailand in search of work, and stay for long periods of time,
leaving young children and homes in the care of elderly grandparents in order
to send money home from time to time. Lay Pyay’s mother has supported her
family in this way by working at a factory over the Thailand border for nearly
the past 10 years. Both she and her husband return to the village just once or
twice a year to see their family.


“We need to put a new roof on and rebuild some
parts of our house to prevent this year’s rains, so she needs to earn a lot of
money. She promised that she will be back for Lay Pyay’s birthday, which is after
3 months.” she says hopefully.    


The annual ceremony starts with lively local
music and dance. An elderly couple leads this ceremony and starts by chanting
prayers and calling upon the guardian spirits to bless the younger generation.


Seven materials – a glass of clean water, white
thread, rice balls, sticky rice, bananas, paw wee flowers and sugarcane are
essential for this event. Each one of these materials symbolizes a value, for
instance paw wee flowers, which locally grow in any season, even in bad
weather, are a symbol for the ability of the community to settle and grow in
any place, and the strength and harmony of living together in a multicultural
village such as this.


After the prayers, elder village and family
members like grandparents recite the blessings while the seven ingredients are
placed on top of the participants’ hands, while tying the piece of white string
around the wrist and wishing them good luck and spiritual strength.


People of other ethnic backgrounds like Pa’o, Mon
and Bamar also enjoy this festival with the Kayin peoples. “I am Pa’O and I am
proud to celebrate this special ceremony of Kayin people. You can see people
from different ethnicities coming together and giving best wishes to each
other. A beautiful tradition to be part of.” Daw Aye One says.