Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.

Surprise Birthday Baci Ceremony

I really wanted to incorporate a local Lao tradition into our birthday celebrations this year and decided to organize a surprise Lao baci ceremony for G with his colleagues. Since he manages over 100 local staff I figured it was a good way to involve them and show interest and respect for their tradition. So I enlisted the help of a few key colleagues to organize a meeting for him outside the office that morning while I set out to buy the fresh flower centerpiece (“pha kwan“) and strings, and bring the supplies of candy, hard-boiled eggs, and folded money stuffed with rice – all symbolic of health, wealth and happiness to be used during the blessings.

The baci is such a wonderful tradition that brings everyone together and literally connects us all in the well wishes given and received. During the ceremony as a senior member (“maw pawn” or “mohkwan“) recites the blessings (“kwan“) while everyone is touching a string attached to the centerpiece or by touching a person’s elbow who’s holding the string and so on throughout the room. Then afterward, each person ties a piece of the string to the wrist of the person being blessed (in this case they did both of us since our birthdays are so close). As the string is being tied, other people hold on to your elbow to add more connectedness and conveyance of community. I love the physical, emotional and spiritual connection that this displays.

It was wonderful to feel a strong sense of community with one another in this way. We both came away from it feeling truly blessed with friends. It turned out to be a special birthday celebration for both of us!

Preparing the pha kwan with strings, eggs, and candy.

Money, flower petals, and rice is thrown at the end of the blessing. Everything is deliberate: the arrangement to the right must be two pairs of five flowers and candles.

The longer strings are held in the palm during the ceremony. The shorter strings on the sticks are used afterward to tie around the wrist.

Connecting our souls by touching the pha kwan and holding the string in a half “nop” position.

Passing the string around to as many people as can reach it. Otherwise, they lightly place their hand on the person holding a string’s elbow.

G listening intently to the elder person giving the blessing.

Small offering bowls are held in one hand while people tie strings on the other.

We had arm fulls of strings!

And then we feasted on some delicious take out. Here, a colleague’s wife generously prepared “Nam”, a crispy rice dish that is really unique and tasty.

We ended with cake and smiles all around!

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3 comments on “Surprise Birthday Baci Ceremony

  1. Dani
    November 30, 2012

    this is so beautiful to me! I love the string and all of the connections, its just such a quiet, beautiful sort of celebration. What a wonderful idea! I think you might win for coolest wife ever. 🙂

  2. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    November 29, 2012

    this is such a beautiful post! thank you for sharing this tradition! z

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This entry was posted on November 29, 2012 by in Laos and tagged , , .

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