My First Thai Funeral

I was asked to go to my first Thai funeral the other day by my boss. I was curious as to what goes on during a Thai funeral, so I wanted to go. Wipa, a woman I work with, unfortunately lost her mother, so we were going for her. We got picked up and went to the Wat to where the ceremony was being held. Everyone was gathered around sitting, but there was no body. There was a picture of the mother and a shrine with some candles and incense burning. About 10 monks showed up and sat down in front of us. The monks were chanting some prayers. One guy on the mic would be chanting with the monks. Going back and forth.

This seemed pretty standard and normal for a funeral. The odd thing was that one person was taking pictures of everybody like this was a momentous occasion. He was documenting everyone that showed up. I know in the States this would not happen at all. Also, another person was video recording the whole event. This would be considered worse than the pictures with the camera. This simply boggled my mind that people would be recording such a somber event. And then as we left, we were given a gift. A box of treats. We were given a gift as we left. It seemed a little backwards to me. This is what I could not believe.

I soon found out that they do this to make a scrapbook of all who showed up to pay tribute the one that has died. I still don’t think it makes it any better. I also found out that this goes on for 7 days. On the last day, the body is brought out for everyone to see. After that, the body then gets cremated.

On day 7, we got invited to go to the last day of mourning. We showed up at the Wat, and many people were dressed up in white suits. Like white uniforms that admirals would wear in the navy. I was asking a Thai teacher that works with me what the white uniforms meant. Also, our boss was carrying the flame from the school to the Wat, so I also asked about this. If you work as a public servant and die you can get the King to light a flame and be sent to the funeral. The white uniforms also shows the public servants. The King lights a flame and it gets carried all the way from Bangkok to Suphanburi. The flame then gets transported to someone who then brings it to the “altar” of the deceased. At the end we get to walk by the remains and place our fake flower underneath the casket to show our respect.