If you spend long enough in Thailand, or have Thai friends, at some point you may find yourself attending a tam boon or making merit ceremony when a Thai friend or acquaintance buys a new house. A tam boon ceremony is the occasion when monks from a local temple come to the house and hold a ceremony to bless the house. In Thai culture, having a tam boon ceremony when buying a new house is often more important than buying furniture. Many Thais believe if they don’t hold a tam boon ceremony they’ll have bad luck while living in the new house and it’s not something they’re about to leave to chance.
When are Tam Boon Ceremonies For a New House Held
Tam boon ceremonies in Thailand are always held in the morning, regardless of the purpose of the ceremony, as they require the services of nine Thai Buddhist monks. As monks have to eat their last meal of the day by noon and a meal must be provided to them after the ceremony ends, the tam boon ceremony must begin early enough so the monks can finish their meal before the clock strikes 12.
What Do You Need for a Tam Boon Ceremony For a New House
Normally, the owner of the house will set up everything for the tam boon ceremony the day before. Nine cushions and nine mats are needed for the ceremony, one pair for each monk. The mat is for the monks to sit on while performing the ceremony and the cushions are for each monk to lean against. Some families will have their own sets of cushions and mats. Others will borrow them from the temple the monks are coming from.
The house owner must also cook food for the monks. This is usually prepared the day before, with finishing touches the morning of the making merit ceremony. Each monk also has to have a candle, a small garland of flowers and incense. Offerings are also bought for each monk to take back to the temple. These include things like food, new monk’s robes, candles, laundry detergent, even light bulbs and matches.
How Do You Set Up a Tam Boon Ceremony
Setting up a tam boon ceremony for a new house can be quite complicated but, as they’re similar all over Thailand, once you’ve learned how it’s easy to repeat the next time.
One of the first things the house owner must do to prepare for a merit making ceremony for a new house is drape the sai sin all around the house. The sai sin is the white rope or cord that you’ll often see in
Buddhist temples and in rooms in Thai houses. (In my office, I had sai sin draped around the walls, as the owner of the company I worked for in Thailand had had monks bless my room before I started to work there).
To drape the sai sin, it’s usually started at a statue of Buddha, which must be set up near to where the head monk will sit. Then it’s wound around the outside of the house, over walls, wrapped around tree branches and garden statues and finally back to the Buddha statue. The sai sin will protect the house and all its occupants and stop evil spirits from entering.
The pillows and cushions should also be set up ready for the monks to seat themselves and candles and flowers placed next to the Buddha statue. A bowl of water is also placed next to where the head monk will set. He will use this during the ceremony for different blessings.
The Day of the Ceremony
Someone from the household must drive to the temple and pick up the monks. The merit making ceremony will start as soon as the monks have arrived and been seated. During a typical tam boon or merit making ceremony, there will be a short ceremony with the owner of the house making offerings to the monks, followed by around 30 minutes of chanting by the monks.
Once the ceremony is over, the house owner will serve food to the monks while the family and guests wait quietly by. Monks always eat first and no one else should eat until they have finished their meal and departed back to the temple.
The ceremony will be completed by the head monk blessing the new house and its occupants by splashing water over the heads of the guests, who will one by one kneel before him, and over the house itself. The head monk will then walk around the house and make nine white circles of paste with his thumb at every door of the house. This bestows his blessing on the house and all its occupants.
The monks are given envelopes containing cash before they leave as an offering in thanks for their services. Depending on the social status of the family this can be a few hundred or a few thousand baht per monk. The money is taken back to the temple by each monk and given to the abbot for operating expenses.
Final Stage of the Ceremony
Once the monks have been taken back to the temple, the guests and the house’s occupants can eat their meal and enjoy each other’s company. The atmosphere is relaxed and happy as now everyone is in a house that should be blessed with good luck and happiness.
Thai tam boon ceremonies are interesting to see as the ceremony is quite colorful and beautiful. The monks also chant in Pali, the ancient language of Buddhism, and the low, even tones of the chanting often has a calming and almost hypnotizing effect.
If you ever get chance to attend a Thai merit making ceremony to bless a new house, do so. They’re also a wonderful place to take photographs, so you can show your family back home what a typical Thai Buddhist religious ceremony looks like.