Royal wisdom, good deeds, and fireworks for a New Year

His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn extolled the virtues of love, wisdom and sufficiency in his New Year’s address to the Thai people, as millions made merit at temples, mosques, and churches to usher in 2019, with the turning of time illuminated by the most spectacular fireworks display ever staged along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.

Seated behind his desk at the palace and flanked by photographs of his late father King Bhumibol and his mother Queen Sirikit, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn appealed to his subjects to recognize, appreciate and further their virtues. Doing so, he said, will bring happiness and also help the nation overcome challenges and achieve prosperity and security.

“I wish you to be free from suffering, I wish you to be happy,” His Majesty said.

His Majesty issued a New Year’s card to the Thai people that read, “Greetings for 2019. With love and pure heart, may this year be filled with liveliness, health, happiness, and wisdom. May you have the encouragement and the will to bring happiness to yourself and others throughout the year and ever after.”

Tens of thousands of Thais followed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s lead by writing their best wishes to His Majesty in welcome books at the Grand Palace. His Majesty’s sister Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn spent New Year’s Day visiting wounded soldiers at Phramongkutklao Hospital in Bangkok.

At temples across the country, countless Thai Buddhists listened to sermons on dhamma delivered by monks and prayed and chanted sutras at temples as the final moments of 2018 wound down. After sunrise, streets in towns and cities were lined with people, some in 19th-century-style Siamese clothing, offering alms to Buddhist monks on their morning rounds. Others volunteered at hospitals, cleaned streets or performed other selfless acts of service.

Along the Chao Phraya River, known as the River of Kings, artists staged a free performance of Khon, the ancient Thai form of masked drama that was recently named an “intangible cultural heritage” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In the evening, Thai and international pop singers crooned to the riverside crowds as midnight approached. A five-sectioned fireworks display that stretched for nearly a mile punctuated the turning of the year. The themes of the pyrotechnic show were River of Prosperity, Siam Treasure, Blossom of Joy, One World, and Thailand. Roughly one million people crammed the river banks.

As in other countries, Thais also made New Year’s resolutions. “I want to accomplish what I could not last year,” college student Piyarat Punpoosa told The Nation newspaper. She said she wanted to secure a job at a publishing company, get a driver’s license and improve her foreign language skills.