Celebrating Songkran

By MEAGAN STILP

mstilp@mininggazette.com

HOUGHTON – Michigan Technological University brought a taste of Thailand to Houghton during Thai New Year Saturday. Hosted by the Thai Student Association, attendees sampled a dinner of specially selected and prepared Thai food, heard traditional and modern Thai music performed by students and saw dances and even Thai boxing.

“This is a time in Thailand when many people go home to be with their families,” said Sorayot Chinkanjanarot, TSA president. The 15 members of the TSA invited those students and families who couldn’t make it back to Thailand, as well as community members who have never visited the country, to celebrate the annual event with them – albeit a bit early.

Traditionally celebrated April 14-15, the Michigan Tech celebration was early and missing some of the traditional elements of Thai New Year. Nopparuj Saipong, an emcee for the night, shared some of those experiences in a dinner presentation. One aspect the students were not engaging the audience in was the water festival.

“Usually at this time in Thailand, the temperatures go up to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit,” Saipong said. “So you can imagine in 100 degrees Fahrenheit you probably want to do something to cool yourself down and one of the things the people of Thailand do when it’s really hot is throw water at each other.”

During Thai New Year, people also gather with family and pay respect to elders. People also visit temples as part of the holiday.

Groups of students also presented Thai music, dance and boxing. One group of three dancers performed a candle dance from Northern Thailand.

“The song is neat and slow and we dance with candles. We hold the candles in a glass bowl and there are three people,” said Suntara Fueangfung. “I’m from the North of Thailand and the candle dance is actually from my town. We use dance for many reasons – to welcome people, in celebration. It would usually happen at night because you want to see the dance moves and also the candles. Just imagine how beautiful it is.”

Throughout the evening members of the TSA shared information about their home country including how the food was prepared, where each piece of music and dance came from and how they represent different aspects of Thai culture. Although celebrating Thai New Year is important to the students, their main goal is to share a bit of their culture with the local community, Chinkanjanarot said.

“We want to share our culture. We want to share something different and we love to share the food and do something that makes people happy. We love to smile – this is the best thing for us,” said Chinkanjanarot.