I have the good fortune of normally being able to wait till April to begin observing my New Year's Resolutions. I make them on December 31, but owing to the fact that I am one half of a mixed marriage, I can delay things till the Lunar New Year, sometime in late January or February. And then, if things don't quite pan out, I can hold it over till Songkran - the Thai New Year - which falls in April.
Why do I presume to observe Songkran? Well, I am a great lover of Thailand and its culture, and have been there many times, spending my days travelling the country and going for periods of retreat at various temples there. I also have good friends who are Thai, and being involved with Buddhism for many years kept me involved in the Thai community in Australia.
The very best Songkran celebration in Sydney is always at Wat Pa Buddharangsee, the Thai forest temple in Leumeah, on the outskirts of Sydney. Wonderful food, lots of people, and the kind of genuine, welcoming energy that I find sadly lacking in most "community" festivals.
People always ask me why the Thai New Year is celebrated at such a peculiar time. Well, it's also the Tamil/Khmer/Lao New Year, and is based on an ancient Tamil calendar that fell out of whack but was never adjusted, owing to the fact that someone important declared it to be perfect and thus unchangeable.
Does anyone know what these delicious little things are called? They are very hard to find, so we were very excited to discover them at Songkran yesterday. They are little bundles of lemongrass, preserved pork and prawns and who knows what else served up on little leaves. You pop some chili sauce on them roll them up and stuff them into your mouth as quickly as you can, causing a perfect explosion of taste leaving you always desperate for more.