Samain and the Gratitude Moon
Thursday (Thanksgiving) gratefuls: Annie, who came yesterday. The snow on Tuesday. The capon that gave its life for our meal. The winds that howl through the forests this morning. Orion, faithful friend and his good dog, Canis Major. The folks who designed and built our Rav4’s, especially Ruby, whose AWD makes her surefooted. Those who care for them at Stevinson Toyota. And, on this day in particular, for all those who sustain traditions and holidays, moments out of ordinary time.
I asked brother Mark and sister Mary what Thanksgiving, a very American holiday, looks like in lands Asian and Arab. Mark said Thanksgiving probably got celebrated in Aramco compounds. Here’s Mary’s reply from Singapore:
“The big hotels serve Thanksgiving dinner & it needs to be reserved way in advance; Brits have Christmas dinner which is also involves Turkey so food is authentic- with all the trimmings- here Halloween and St Patrick’s Day☘️are also widely celebrated- in addition to Asian festivals- so pretty much there is always something to celebrate“
Mary has made this comment, always something to celebrate, before. When I visited Singapore for the first time in 2004, I was there the first week of November. Christmas decorations lined Orchard Road, the big commercial street. It was also U.S. election week, so the American Club had a big breakfast spread so we could watch the returns live. You know how that turned out. We weren’t celebrating. (though right now GW Bush looks like a political genius)
These paled in comparison to the Arab quarters celebration of post-fast Ramadan. We found shisha smokers lounging on the sidewalks and had a good Arab meal, probably lamb and rice, but I don’t recall.
Little India had a huge arc of lights over its main road marking the holiday of Diwali, the festival of lights, also underway. There were stalls selling sweets, Diwali lights, and Hindu related religious artifacts. I bought a Kali medallion, a Vishnu and Shiva medallion. We had a vegetarian meal in a Tamil restaurant where we ate with our hands. Our right ones.
Not sure whether it was Diwali related or not, but much later that night, in the early a.m., Mary and I went to the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, built in 1827. According to the Temple’s website the firewalking was on October 20th this year.
Due to changes in population over time it happens to sit now in the midst of Chinatown. There were lines blocks long of men in various sorts of clothing, all holding branches of some kind and, if I recall correctly, lemons or limes. At the very end of these line were a few women.
I stopped to talk with some of the women. “Oh, yes. Now we can go to the firewalking, too. But they didn’t want us. We insisted.” This was about 3 am or so. Mary and I walked along the lines of devotees waiting for their turn.
We got to the temple and watched folks walk across the bed of coals, then into a milk bath, and finally into the arms of priests and fellow firewalkers. The moist night air, the early morning quiet, and this strange (to my eyes) sight is a special memory for me. Afterward, Mary and I had Chinese food at a big hotel.
Ramadan, Diwali, Christmas, firewalking, and the American election. It was my introduction to Asia and underlines Mary’s there’s always something to celebrate.