Mae Sot’s Karen Migrant Community Keep Karen Wrist Tying Alive

Hundreds of the Karen migrant community gathered on August 6 in the Thai border town of Mae Sot to celebrate the traditional wrist-tying ceremony at a local monastery.

“The tradition of tying white cotton thread around wrists has been passed down through generations and it is not only a traditional legacy of Karen people, but also intended to enrich people’s health and strength by celebrating it”, said Mann Shwe Hnin, an organizer of the event.

Mahn Shwe Hnin said that Karen wrist tying has nothing to do with religion and it’s a purely a traditional Karen practice.

“Karen people have been celebrating the wrist tying tradition since before there was any religion; therefore, Karen people should not differentiate it amongst religions, but continue to maintain it since it is a tradition that belongs to Karen people.”

At the wrist tying day ceremony in Mae Sot, Karen migrant workers and foreign guests attended, monks and the elders tied white and red threads around the participants’ wrists, and the participants also tied threads on each other wrists. The ceremony also included entertainment with Karen musicians, vocalists and dance groups.

Saw A’Pue who attended the Wrist Tying Day ceremony said, “What I want the most is the unity of Karen people. I am so glad to see everyone united. To conserve the Wrist Tying Day ceremony, we will tell our next generations to maintain it.”

Karen people in the old day believed that War Khaung Month (Karen Month of Lah Khu) was not only the month that brought disease because of the rainy season, but also the month that evil could possess the body of the living. In response to these beliefs, the Karen ancestors organized the Karen Wrist Tying celebration to prevent their children and grandchildren from these disasters. It is now also celebrated so that Karen people can meet to celebrate the day together once a year.

In Karen Wrist Tying tradition seven items are needed – sticky rice, white thread, banana, water, Nat Pan Nyo, rice, and sugar cane. Some of the Karen people believe that Karen Wrist Tying ceremony is a religious based ceremony, so some avoid the practice.

However thousands of Karen people from different parts of the world annually come together to celebrate the Wrist Tying Day in War Khaung month to preserve Karen traditions, as well as in the hope of preventing disease and to ward off evil entities.

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