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Lesson Transcript

Culture Class: Holidays in Thailand, Lesson 23 – Rocket Festival
Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Thailand Series at ThaiPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Thai holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 23, Rocket Festival. In Thai, it’s called ประเพณีบุญบั้งไฟ (bprà-phee-nii bun bâng fai).
In this lesson, we’re talking about the Rocket Festival, or Bun Bang Fai Festival, which is held in the northeastern part of Thailand as well as in Laos. This Festival usually falls during the 6th and 7th months, which mark the rainy season, the most suitable season for farming. This festival is held to worship the angel of the city and to wish for sufficient rainfall and abundant food.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
What are the fireballs used in the festival made from?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
The tradition of the Rocket Festival comes from the folklore of the northeastern region. It was mentioned that the villagers organized this festival to worship the angel, or เทวดา (thee-wá-daa), whom they believed was responsible for the accuracy of seasonal rain and enjoyed fire very much. Hence, lighting fireballs is one of the ways to show respect and loyalty to the angel. If a village does not arrange to hold this Rocket festival, it is feared that rain, or ฝน (fŏn) will not fall as predicted and some disasters may even befall the village.
Before the day of festivities, villagers help each other organize the event. Men help to make the fireballs, or บั้งไฟ (bâng fai), and decorate them, while women prepare the dance parade for the fireballs. Before the day of lighting the fireball, villagers parade through the village. This event emphasizes fun and lightheartedness, with many people dancing joyously to the tunes of Bung Fai songs. The songs, or เพลง (phleeng), can sometimes be rude, but nobody gets angry. The content is usually about the history and origin of the Rocket Festival.
On the day on which the fireballs will be lit, villagers bring the fireballs from each village out for a contest. The one that goes the highest is deemed the winner and the ones that exploded or did not go up at all will lose. The tradition is that the losers will be punished by being thrown into the mud. Villagers believe food will be abundant if the fireballs fly high.
There is an especially famous Rocket Festival in Yasothon province. It’s widely popular and attracts so many foreigners and tourists that it is called an International Bun Bang Fai Festival. There are fireballs from Japan and neighboring countries joining the competition every year.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
What are the fireballs used in the festival made from?
In the past, they were made from bamboo stems and could not be packed with much gun powder. Now, the fireball is made from PVC plastic pipe which is long and large. This means it can carry more gun powder. Large fireballs can be shot into the sky as high as 100 kilometers.
So listeners, how did you like this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Did you know about this festival before?
Leave us a comment telling us at ThaiPod101.com!
And I’ll see you in the next lesson!

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Did you know about this festival before?