5th Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: Sociology: What are some cultural rituals related to rice?


STUDY GUIDE

Rice is one of the oldest crops cultivated by humans, and it is the staple food for two-thirds of the worldÂ’s population. Numerous cultures honor this important grain with festivals and celebrations.

Countries in the Far East have many rituals throughout the year, celebrating rice as the major dietary staple of the area. Indonesians revere the Rice Mother, or Dewi Sri, a Hindu deity. Dewi Sri is actually three distinct figures: the goddess who bore rice for the people; Me Posop, who protects the rice crops; and, finally, the harvested rice that appears as a woman. Many people in Indonesia place moistened uncooked rice on their temples in hopes of gaining the qualities of the Rice Mother. Others sprinkle rice around crops to ward off evil spirits.

In Thailand, the Rice Plowing Festival, held in May, celebrates the role of the farmer. Predictions of rainfall and crop abundance are made by the Phraya Reek Na, or Festival Lord. Additionally, rice seed is taken from gold baskets and scattered in rice fields during the ceremony. This rice is believed to be very sacred, and onlookers hope to get a few of these special grains for use in their own crops.

The Philippine people use rice wine to seal oral contracts and to end disagreements. Additionally, there are many rice festivals held from January to October in the Philippines that celebrate the planting and harvesting of the grain.

The Japanese Rice Transplanting Ceremony is held in June. This ceremony has been in existence for hundreds of years. Participants, dressed in beautiful costumes, carry banners as they walk in a processional to the rice field. Prayers to the rice god, Sanbai-sama, are said by women in front of a ceremonial fire. Finally, the rice seedlings are planted by the women while musicians play pipes and drums.

Other world cultures also revere rice. Iranians celebrate the new year with a traditional meal of rice, herbs and fish. This meal called Sabzi Polo Mahi, is said to bring about good luck.

The American tradition of throwing rice at a wedding is done in hopes that the bridal couple will be happy together in matrimony and have children. The custom hails from Asia when rice was thrown at couples to wish them prosperity and fertility.

Each of the rice producing states, in the U.S.A. has a rice festival, usually in the Fall, to celebrate the rice harvest. The festivities vary from state to state, but generally it is a time to celebrate the harvest, have fun, eat lots of good food made with rice and to highlight the importance of the rice industry to the community. The International Rice Festival in Crowley, Louisiana includes a big parade, rice queens and kings of all ages, rice eating contests, rice cooking contests, duck calling contests, food like Boudin (a sausage made with rice) jambalaya, gumbo, and other great rice foods.

Rice is celebrated in festivals the world over! How do you celebrate rice?



ACTIVITIES

List two facts about the Rice Mother deity of Indonesia.

How is rice used in the Rice Plowing Festival in Thailand?



EXTENDED LEARNING

Create a calendar listing the dates of different rice festivals around the world. Are they around the same time of year? What can you conclude about rice planting and cultivation based on this information?


RESOURCES

Asia Rice Foundation
http://www.asiarice.org

Rice by Encyclopedia Britannica
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=65151&tocid=0

Philippines Department of Tourism
http://www.tourism.gov.ph/

Indonesian Department of Tourism
http://www.indonesia-tourism.com/

Thailand Tourism
http://www.tat.or.th/tat_eng.htm

Wedding Rituals
http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0767684.html



VOCABULARY

  • revere
  • deity
  • processional
  • originated
  • matrimony
  • prediction


Click here to play Rice Rampage!
Anatomy of Rice:
Rice is a seed of cereal (grass) plant used for food. Click here to learn more about the Anatomy of Rice.
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