Luang Prabang’s Alms Ceremony

This is a long delayed post as I was in Luang Prabang first week of January.  While doing a slide presentation for a workshop this coming weekend, I stumbled on my Laos travel pics and thumbing through the images brought magical memories of the alms ceremony in Luang Prabang.  Much has been said about the rude manners of some tourists who think  nothing of destroying the solemnity of the ceremony by jostling with the monks or taking part in the ceremony for photo opportunities.  To those tourists, I wish that some naga would devour them.

Below are a few interesting things about the ceremony.

1.  It’s not as early as you think.  January is brrrrrrr season in Luang Prabang which meant that dawn wouldn’t be breaking out until about 5:30am.  On my first morning at LP, I was up by 5am, peered through the door of my guesthouse, and saw black.  Too early.  5:30 is just about the right time for enough light and for the locals and the hordes of tourists wanting to participate (mostly for sheer photo ops) to start setting-up their offerings.

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3.  Locals earn merit by it.  Buddhism allows mortals to gain brownie points through certain acts.  One of them is to make merit by offering food to monks.

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4.  The monks really do eat the food.   This is their daily sustenance.  A few years ago, the temples threatened to stop the ceremony as some monks were getting sick from the bad food being given (presumably by tourists).  If you would want to participate, give good quality rice and other food stuff they might want.  I saw some Asian tourists giving packaged food such as crackers.

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5.  Others get to eat too.  You will also see small children with baskets kneeling by the sidewalk.  Others follow the monks from behind.  Some of the monks give their excess food to these children.  A monk can just take too many rice balls in one day, right?

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6.  Feed the monks.  Feed the children. If you have some extra food, you can give them to the children.

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