Poi Sang Long Festival

Date: April
Venue: Mae Hong Son

During the school break between late March to early April, the Tai Yai ethnic group in Mae Hong Son province hold a special religious ceremony called 'Poi Sang Long'.

Poi Sang Long is a Buddhist novice ordination ceremony, but unlike any other ceremony of its type in the country. Young boys aged between 7 and 14 are ordained as novices to learn the Buddhist doctrines. It's believed that they will gain merit ordaining for their parents.

The origins of this festival lie in Buddhist legend. It is believed that the tradition is probably following in the footsteps of Prince Rahula, the Buddha's own son, who gave up his worldly life to follow his father's spiritual teachings. Prince Rahula became the youngest ordained monk and the first novice in Buddhism. Subsequently it became a tradition that young boys should ordain to learn Buddhist teachings.

With such high reverence to the Buddhist religion, the people here consider that the celebrations should be as grand as possible.

The festival lasts for three days. On the first day, the boys have their heads shaved. Then, they are bathed and anointed with special waters and dressed up elegantly and colorfully while their faces are superbly embellished. By this time, the boys are known locally as 'Sang Long' or 'Look Kaew' (jewel sons).

On the second day, a colorful procession is held displaying offerings for the monks. On the third day, the procession once again proceeds through the town and the boys are taken to the temples for the formal ordination ceremony.

The colorful festival is one of the most delightful in the north, attracting people from far and wide. The local authorities and the Tourism Authority of Thailand consider this festival to be unique to Mae Hong Son, the so-called 'Province of the Three Mists.'