Every April 13, diners at the Bangkok Garden Restaurant take aim at each other with water pistols supplied by the restaurant. The tradition of splashing one’s friends with water is considered a gesture of goodwill and is practised widely in Thailand on this day as a way to celebrate the New Year.
Thailand, a constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia, was formerly the Kingdom of Siam and is often associated with the romance of exotic lands depicted in fairy tales. Today, Thailand has become an important trading partner with Canada. Shelves in Toronto’s supermarkets and Chinatown’s shops carry canned tuna, shrimp, pineapple, rice, noodles, peppers, vegetables, and spices imported from Thailand. Thai silk, considered the best in the world, along with silk flowers and jewelry, can be found in boutiques throughout the city.
The first Thai people in Toronto were a handful of students who came to study in the early 1950s and returned home after their education was completed. Few others came to settle here until the mid-1960s when the Canadian Embassy was established in Bangkok. Many of these early immigrants were former students who were sponsored by their Canadian spouses, while others arrived to work as domestics. The city’s Thai are employed as professionals, technicians, and tradespeople. Chefs have brought exotic Thai cuisine and the famed satay sauce—the heart of Thai cooking—to Toronto.
In 1982, Raphi Kanchanaraphi and a group of friends formed Toronto’s Thai Association. The association organizes two events for the community: an annual New Year’s Eve dance with traditional music, dance, and food; and an annual barbecue held on August 7. Several less formal gatherings throughout the year are held at the homes of members.
The Thai Buddhist Organization carries out services and wedding ceremonies at Thai temples and at the homes of members. These services are often performed by resident monks or visiting monks from Chicago, Texas, California, or Thailand.
In 1989, Thailand was the featured country at the Canadian National Exhibition, with 80 exhibitors in the International Pavilion. In 1997, the Canadian Government hosted “Canada Year of Asia Pacific,” a project intended to promote and enrich multiculturalism in Canada. The Thai Society of Ontario, sponsored by the Canadian Government, along with the Thai Tourist Authority, held a Thai cultural exhibition at Scarborough Town Centre. Thai classical dance, Muay Thai, food, and silk products highlighted the show.
The following religious holidays are commemorated:
MAKHA PUJHA DAY remembers the First Council of Buddhist Monks, led by the Buddha in India in 659 B.C.
VESAK DAY celebrates the Buddha’s birthday in 624 B.C.
KHAOPUNSA DAY is a day when people offer requisites to the monks.
CANADA AND WORLD PEACE PARADE. On the first weekend in June, both temples join with 34 temples and organizations to celebrate the Canada and World Peace Parade that moves from Toronto City Hall to Queen’s Park.
QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY. Thai communities across Canada celebrate Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday on April 12.
SONGKRAN (THAI NEW YEAR) is held on April 13 according to the Lunar calendar. It is also the water festival, featuring the blessing of waters. The day is celebrated in temples with religious and family celebrations.
KING BHUMIPOL’S BIRTHDAY is celebrated on December 5. In Thailand, the long reigning King Bhumipol and Queen Sirikit are well-respected figures. The Thai Society of Ontario often organizes a trip to the Thai Embassy in Ottawa for a weekend of ceremonies, speeches, and dinners to toast the health of the popular king.
NEW YEAR’S EVE. Every December 31, the Thai Association organizes a New Year’s Eve party, complete with authentic Thai cuisine, dancing, and music.
FAIRCHILD RADIO, AM 1430, (Tel. 905-889-1430, 135 East Beaver Creek Rd., Richmond Hill). Saturday 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Producer: Prasert Budsinghkhon.