Happy Day of the Dead, Khao Sarn fans! Though Thailand doesn’t traditionally celebrate this ghostly day on November 1, Chinese communities in cities like Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai do have their own spooky festivities. The most well known is Phuket’s Por Tor, or the Hungry Ghost Festival.
On the full moon of the Chinese calendar’s seventh lunar month, many Thai of Chinese descent believe peckish spirits wander out of hell and roam the earth looking for a bite. These particular spirits don’t have family members honoring them, which means no food, spirit cash or appeasement. They could also be ghosts who did tragically or were particularly greedy in life. On top of that, they have very small mouths, preventing them from ever satisfying their post mortem hunger. These unhappy spirits can cause serious problems for the community.
In order to appease the wandering entities, the Hungry Ghost Festival, which has both Buddhist and Tao roots, is full of offerings like food, fake cash, candles and flowers – and that’s just for the dead. The living can enjoy parades, music, chanting, dancing, plenty of food and some very intricately carved fruit.
Different communities also celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival a bit differently. In Phuket, folks leave big, turtle-shaped rice cakes at temples for luck and success. Flowers and incense are also popular offerings, however the pretend money might be the most unique. This money is purchased specifically to be burned, with the idea that the hungry ghosts can use the cash.
The end of the festival is marked by sending lotus-shaped water lanterns down the river, directing the souls of the not so peacefully departed back to the underworld. When the lanterns finally burn out, it signals that the dead have found their way.
If you have ever participated in this unique festival feel free to share your thoughts and experiences!
Photo via www.TravelFish.org