October 22, 2014
Halloween Alternatives in Thailand
When: 31st October annually
While many more western countries are celebrating the yearly, (and now almost wholly commercialized) event, here in Thailand outside of the more touristy areas, it is pretty much little understood and therefore pretty much ignored. Halloween is in fact the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day the time in the Christian year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful, departed believers.
The reason Thai’s in general ignore Halloween, is in part due to the fact, that we in Thailand have our own unique festival of the ‘Offerings to the Dead’, (Sart Thai: วันสาทรไทย) See more, plus a shared Chinese festival that is the ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ (known to Thai’s as Sat Chin). It is also fair to say that the Thai people, also have a deep ingrained respect of the supernatural, (see more on my post Supernatural Thailand), which can even be seen in the actions of government departments, when they will ask monks to banish bad spirits, who in their opinion are the cause of their department’s failings.
Ghost Festivals across the Kingdom
The Kingdom also has a number of other festivals during this period that also pay homage to the dead, in the Southern and Central Thailand the festival is known as งานบุญเดือนสิบ (ngan boon duan sib) also called ประเพณีสารทเดือนสิบ (bra pae nee sat duan sib) or Festival of the Tenth Lunar Month (ประเพณีเทศกาลเดือนสิบ). In the North the name of the festival is ประเพณีตานก๋วยสลาก (bra pae nee da guay sla).
In Isaan it is called การทำบุญแจกข้าว (gan tam boon jag khao), this Isaan festival should not be confused with Phi Ta Khon, the most common name for the festival held in Dan Sai, Loei province Northeast Thailand, which takes place over three days, some-time between June and July, the dates being selected annually by the town’s mediums. The Khmer descendents of Isaan also have their own festival San Don Ta Festival, which takes place late September-early October 2016.
There are also a number of uniquely ethnic festivals, that contain the same principles of praying to dead relatives they include the Mon people who celebrate, The Mon Floating Boat Festival, plus their neighbours in Kanchanaburi the Karen people, who have their festival of Khao Ho or Ang Mi Thong. While the Yong people of Northern Thailand have their Salak Yom Festival.
If you combine all these festivals and beliefs with the Thai/Chinese belief that there is much Karma to be had from cleaning the bones of the (mainly) unknown dead, (The bodies are exhumed cleaned, including removal of any skin etc. and eventually cremated) then you can begin to understand why Thai’s (and the Chinese) see little in Halloween worth celebrating. (The same practice of cleaning the bones of the dead is conducted in other parts of the world including Mexico)
That is not to say that Thai’s if given the chance will not join in the fun that is Halloween. It is one of the most alluring aspects of the Thai people, that they love to enjoy themselves and will party at any opportunity.
If you need you Halloween fix, then you will find it celebrated in the larger tourists destinations through-out the kingdom, it is here you will find bars, clubs and some hotels doing their very best to celebrate the evening, with areas such as Walking Street in Pattaya and Koh San Road in Bangkok, alight with lanterns and all manner of ghouls and witches, marking the evening a festival of laughs howls and screams.
With all these festivals celebrating the dead, the Thai peoples belief in spirits, ghouls and ghosts, plus the Buddhist beliefs in re-incarnation, it is easy to see why Halloween is not yet a big thing here in the Kingdom…but for how much longer?
For more on Thai Spirits and superstitions within the Kingdom click on any of our Posts
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