December: Welcome to The Mekong
This December, we are highlighting the stories and traditions of the Mekong.
The Mekong River originates high in the Tibetan plateau and passes through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Estimated by the Mekong River Commission at just under 4909 kilometers long, it is the seventh longest river in Asia and the 10th longest in the world. The people of the Mekong are dependent on this vast waterway for transport, food, and harvest of natural resources for their daily life.
For the people living along the Mekong River, especially the 29.6 million living within 15km of the river, this great waterway plays both a cultural and economic role. Cultural practices, traditions, and holidays center around the river’s seasonal changes, and country economies depend on the resources and services of the river, which provides rice, fish, and water for domestic, municipal, and industrial use.
People have lived in the Greater Mekong region for more than 4,000 years. These indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities continue to live in the region, each with their own traditional economic and cultural relationship to the natural environment. In the Kayah-Karen Tenasserin highlands between Thailand and Myanmar lives six different ethnic groups: The Akha, Hmong, Lu Mien, Karen, Lisu and Lahu peoples. In Thailand and Cambodia, 80% of the population is made up of minority ethnic groups like the Jarai, Kraol, Phnong, Ro Oung, Stieng, Oey, Kreung and Tampuan as well as Cham, Chinese, Khmer, Lao and Vietnamese. The Greater Annamite Mountains bordering Laos and Vietnam is home to 30 million people from 70 ethno-linguistic groups, such as the Ruc and Khamu Rok, who have inhabited this ecoregion for thousands of years. To the extent that they are able, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities in the region continue to live off the land based on traditional customs.
Source: Adapted from Open Development Mekong
Traditions of the Mekong
Many festivals in Southeast Asia are linked to agricultural seasons or historical Buddhist holidays.
- Burma: Tazaungdaing Festival, or the Festival of Lights, is held on the full moon day, and is celebrated as a national holiday to mark the end of rainy season.
- Cambodia: Pchum Ben, or Ancestor’s Day, is a 15-day occasion that usually runs from the end of September to mid-October where the spirits of ancestors are thought to be so active they may even return to earth.
- Laos: The general word for festival is "boun", and it is common to visit a temple and make merit or "thum boun" during holidays or rites of passage.
- Thailand: Songkran is the April New Year festival where locals toss water on passersby to cleanse past misfortunes and allow them to enter the new year rejuvenated.
- Vietnam: Mid-Autumn Festival, or harvest festival, is celebrated in mid-September in which families enjoy moon cakes together and make offerings in honor of the full moon.
- China: The Lantern Festival or the Spring Lantern Festival is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar, where lanterns are displayed or released to mark the end of the Chinese New Year festival.
This month Tuk Tuk Box is proud to showcase the diverse traditions from the Mekong region, and we hope you enjoy this box of goodies in honor of our beautiful ancestries. Monthly subscribers will receive exclusive gifts and stories. Inside the Traditions of the Mekong box, you'll find a silver bowl, or "khaan" in Lao, traditionally used for almsgiving. Also included: Vietnamese seafood sauce, sun-dried beef jerky, and Mai Mom's chili oil from a mother-daughter duo who honor their hometown of Hue, Vietnam through their cooking.
Read more about these two amazing mother daughter duos that we would love to share:Mai Mom Chili Oil
Love Khao Swe