Friday, August 12th, was Mother’s Day in Thailand. It is the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand and, since 1976, has been celebrated as Mother’s Day, as the Queen is viewed as the mother of the people of Thailand. It is a national holiday and all banks, schools, and government offices are closed. The people of Thailand do not send cards (Hallmark has not discovered this market yet), but they do remember their mothers with a phone call, a visit, an invitation to lunch or dinner, or a gift of some sort. My mother’s birthday is August 14th and, growing up in Thailand, we always celebrated Mom’s special day and the Queen’s birthday together – and we were delighted that school was closed for the occasion!
For the Queen’s birthday, the Thai decorate their offices and homes as we often do for Independence Day. The Thai flag is visible everywhere. The Queen’s flag (blue) with her official seal often appears as well. Portraits of the Queen are erected on street corners, in front of government office buildings, and in people’s homes. These portraits are often decorated with garlands of flowers or Christmas lights. The evening before the holiday, the Queen is honored at a reception by the parliament. The Prime Minister gives a speech thanking her for her generous benevolence and wishing her long life and good health. The Queen also gives a speech, similar to the State of the Union speech in the USA, in which she outlines the various projects the royal family has supported in the past year and expresses her concerns for the people of Thailand. I listened to her speech this year and was impressed by her sincerity, her concern for the people, her sense of humor, and her graciousness. She really reached out to those who were present, not only in delivering her prepared remarks, but in a few extemporaneous comments sprinkled throughout.
On Sunday, August 14th, the associate pastor at First Church in Chiangmai told the children the story of Moses’ birth with energy and humor, giving the story life and meaning. She focused on Moses’ older sister, Miriam, and the ways in which she helped her mother in that difficult time. She encouraged the children to honor their mother and to help them, as Miriam did. This pastor also preached a dynamic sermon about two women who were healed by Jesus. After worship, there was a brief ceremony to honor the Queen and to celebrate all mothers. We then went to lunch with the Sa’adprai family whose matriarch has been like a daughter to Mom and a sister to me since I was a teenager. Now there are three grand-daughters and three (almost four) great-grandchildren on that side of our family. Most of them joined us for lunch and, in the wonderful Thai tradition of honoring their elderly, they treated Mom with honor and respect – and showered affection on this woman they call ‘Kuhn Tuit’ (Great-Grandma).