Festival of Offerings to the Dead (Sart Thai) วันสาทรไทย
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 to Saturday, 22 September, 2014
While not widely known out-side of Thailand and it is at times confused with the more famous Chinese ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ (known to Thai’s as Sat Chin), this purely Thai occasion is celebrated across the Kingdom but is known by different names in the differing regions and is sometimes mistakenly thought to be the start of the ‘Vegetarian Festival’ that also occurs around the same time in the Thai lunar calendar.
In the South of Thailand the festival is known as งานบุญเดือนสิบ (ngan boon duan sib) also called ประเพณีสารทเดือนสิบ (bra pae nee sat duan sib). 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 (also spelled Pee Ta Khon ผีตาโขน), the most common name for a group of festivals held in Dan Sai, Loei province Isaan as this event takes place over three days some-time between March and July, the dates being selected annually by the town’s mediums (see picture left).
While in Central Thailand it is not a specific celebration as in the other parts of Thailand and does not have a different name and in turn is not that commonly celebrated, it is simply known as Sart Thai. It is possibly the combination of this jumble of names and the confusion with both the Chinese celebration and that of Phi Ta Khon that makes this purely Thai festival little known to non-Thai’s.
The festival can go until the third day of the waxing of the eleventh lunar month. Traditionally it is a time for families to come together and visit their local temple to give offerings to their deceased relatives and to other deceased people to whom they are not related. Thai people have a strong belief in ghosts and the spirit world, especially in ‘Preta’ also known as Praet and Peta, these are giant ghosts with small mouths who are always hungry. The offerings are special food each of which have a special individual meaning, representing clothes, money, jewellery, transportation, and shelter.
While Thailand has very close historical links with China and there are similarities to the Chinese Hungry Ghost festival (similar in the way food is offered to the deceased relatives and other dead), this is not a Chinese festival, but a regional Thai festival. Celebrations are bigger in the South, especially in Nakhon Si Thammarat. The 12th through 14th days of the waning of the 10th lunar month (2014) are the most important in the festival. It is here in the South that there are large parades and other activities.