14 Feb 2015

Only in Bangkok: the world’s weirdest Valentine’s Day ritual

Forget chocolates and flowers: death, rebirth, cross-dressing and chariot rides come together in a very Thai celebration of love.

 Thai rebirth ceremony (Picture: Raul Gallego Abellan)

Wat Thien, a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of the Thai capital, is well known for its rebirth ceremonies, where couples take part in an elaborate ritual designed to clear away bad karma before they start their new life together. Channel 4 News photographer and cameraman Raul Gallego Abellan was there.

Couples reach the temple in a parade. The grooms arrive first, riding horses. The brides follow on chariots.

As at any wedding the world over, the men wait nervously for the arrival of the brides.

Some will marry today in a Buddhist wedding ritual, while other couples are already married but will go through the rebirth ceremony for good luck.

 Couples climb in the coffin (Picture: Raul Gallego Abellan)

After a group wedding, there are blessings and prayers… before the symbolic “deaths” and funeral services begin.

One by one, the couples climb inside a double coffin. Monks cover them with a white cloth while chanting funeral mantras.

 Couple with child (Picture: Raul Gallego Abellan)

The couple are covered with the sheet then uncovered. They have “died” and been “reborn”, ready to start married life with a clean slate.

Some couples bring their children to take part in the rebirth ceremony. And in tolerant Thailand, some are in same-sex relationships, like these women.

Same-sex couple (Picture: Raul Gallego Abellan)

For some of the participants, the ceremony will bring good luck. Others believe it will strengthen their love for their partner.

Same sex couple go through

For others, it is chance to say that they were born, died and got married on the same day.