The shin Pyu or novitiation ceremony, where young male Buddhists become novice monks, dates back to the time of the Buddha, some 2,500 years ago, when the Buddha granted His son the heritage of becoming a novice. Nowadays the occasion is associated with much fanfare, and charity feasts are held for invited guests and relatives. There is not restriction on when a shin pyu ceremony may be held, but the months of February, March and April are the most popular. The procession begins as the boys ride the caparisoned (decorated) horses – shaded with gilded umbrellas and accompanied by parents, family members and others – to a nat or spirit home where prayers and devotions are held. Later in the day the boys are novitiated – including having their heads shaven – after which the fresh novices must stay in the monastery for at least 7 days, under the care of the residing monks. Families earn great merit when a son dons the robe of the monk, even if he does not remain in the order long enough to take his ordained vows.