While most people look for a place to ring in the New Year in loud inebriated celebration, not many would consider doing something out of the ordinary: structured chanting and reflection. For those willing to give it a try, check out the Wat Thai Temple of Los Angeles in North Hollywood.
Just before 11 p.m. people start to gather in the temple for the chanting session of the “Preliminary Homage to Buddha,” in which words and phrases in ancient Pali are repeated 108 times until midnight. Buddhists consider this a way to pay respects to the Buddha.
Looking above you will see white string forming a web, a set stretching from the front to the back of the temple crisscrossing with another set running left to right. Where the strings intersect, more string (with a red or white picture of the Buddha attached) drops towards the floor. Each person in a kneeling position at the temple grabs onto at least one string to hold for the ritual. Later, these strings are cut at the start of the New Year to keep for good luck and long life.
On this night, my third time visiting for the New Year, I was aided by printed text to guide me through the chanting. Monks led the entire group, their voices all in unison.
Perhaps it was the orderly nature of the event, but unlike at other traditional New Year’s celebrations, I found more time to reflect on the year that had passed and think about the year that was about to begin.