BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
LAYTON — As women in traditional Thai and Laotian dress blessed honored guests at Saturday’s Songkran Festival, an air of solemnity fell on participants in the middle of a party.
“It’s amazing how much reverence there is in their tradition. We could learn a lot from them,” said Layton Police Lt. Travis Lyman, shortly after one of the women dipped a flower in a container of water, and then placed it in Lyman’s hand.
Often called the water festival, Songkran is held on the date of the ancient New Year, as recognized by Thai and Laotian Buddhists.
Traditionally, the ceremony involves pouring water into the palms of the hands in order that bad actions and bad thoughts flow away with the water.
The water is a sign of purification in many religious traditions, a narrator said, as the women moved along the line.
The annual Songkran Festival at Wat Dhammagunaram Buddhist Temple drew hundreds this year.
The crowds enjoyed activities ranging from the Miss Songkran Beauty Contest to a Tae Kwondo demonstration, a classical Thai-Lao dance performance, songs by the One Voice Children’s Choir, and a demonstration of Muay Thai kickboxing.
The Miss Songkran Pageant featured contestants from all along the Wasatch Front, but also from out-of-state ‘ one contestant came from New Mexico and another from Nevada.
Of course there was the food, traditionally a big draw to the festival, and many could be seen walking the temple grounds, eating noodle soup from big bowls, as well as rice, vegetable and fish dishes and a favorite dessert ‘ sweet sticky rice with fresh mango.
Members of the temple are mostly from Thailand and Laos.
They practice the Theraveda form of Buddhism, described as the dominant form of Buddhism in southeast Asia, according bhavanasociety.org.
Theraveda emphasizes the four noble truths: suffering; the cause of suffering which is craving for sensuality; the relinquishment of that craving; and the path of practice leading to the cessation of suffering.
Adrena Anaya enjoyed the festivities with her two children and her mother-in-law.
They are regulars at Songkran and other temple festivals.
“I grew up in the Thai community and I always support it,” she said, as she enjoyed some of the noodle soup.
The celebration continued Sunday during a special worship service in which the monks living at Wat Dhammagunaram were honored. The temple is the only one in Utah to have monks living in a house on the temple grounds.