Can’t imagine anything bigger. The บวชเณร (Buaat Naehn) — ordination celebration — shown on the video below was to honor our friends’ son.
Ordinations in the religious tradition of my youth were similarly all-male affairs. They also included plenty of incense and candles.
There, however, similarities with Buddhism stop.
Catholic ordinations were stately and somber. They occurred mostly indoors, with droning prayers and plodding choral music accompanied by grandiose chords from a pipe organ. There was a gold ring involved, just like at a wedding, and the young man was believed to be committing the rest of his life to service of his god. “It’s just like he’s marrying Jesus”, I remember hearing (as a little gay boy, the idea of marrying Jesus made some sense, given the obvious appeal of the ripped, six-pack torso hanging on the wall demanding my “adoration”; it was problematic, however, to imagine being in a long-term intimate relationship with a handsome guy who was invisible as well as all-powerful). An hour into the shindig, the event climaxed when the new monk or priest performed his very first miracle of transubstantiation, and we ate his hunky new husband’s actual flesh and drank his actual blood (think I’m making this up? See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation).
There was a banquet afterward, maybe with casserole and a few sips of wine. Our red-nosed Irish relations might sneak a few tugs of whiskey, but they’d go into the confessional and apologize for this sin later. The entire event wrapped-up in three hours, four at the most. The newly-minted padre began to serve his god for what was expected to be the rest of his life.
Our friend in Nong Pho, in contrast, shaves his head, has a week-long party then spends a couple of months living as a monk in the local Wat. Then he marries a real person and gets on with his life. The event is vastly happier and its outcome much more practical. While the ceremony is not entirely free of superstitions, there is no human blood or flesh consumed as in the religious tradition of my childhood.
Ordination celebrations by my Buddhist friends are some of the most genuine and joy-filled experiences I’ve known.