August 16, 2015
The Por Tor Festival or as it is more commonly known the ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ (also known as ‘Sart Duan Sib’) is a time for the Chinese-Thai communities to pay respect to those that have passed on and who are presently stuck in Hell
When: Full moon of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese lunar calendar (21st Aug – 27th Sept 2016)
Where: Through-out Thailand
This month long annual festival, is known across Southeast Asia as the “Hungry Ghost Festival” and is celebrated through-out Thailand with the biggest festivals held in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai (for details of dates and locations of the events in Phuket see the bottom of this post). This festival should not be confused with the purely Thai festival of ‘Offerings to the Dead’ or ‘Sart Thai Day’ , or the Tiggkrahad festival and the Nakhon Si Thammarat, in Southern Thailand festival called the Festival of the Tenth Lunar Month (ประเพณีเทศกาลเดือนสิบ), both of which occur around the same time each year and have a number of similarities.
There are also a number of uniquely ethnic festivals that also contain the same principles of praying to dead relatives they include the Mon people who celebrate, The Mon Floating Boat Festival and their neighbours in Kanchanaburi, the Karen people who have their festival of Khao Ho or Ang Mi Thong. Plus the Khmer people in Northeast Thailand and their San Don Ta Festival and the Yong people of Northern Thailand and their Salak Yom Festival
The festival begins on the 15th day of the seventh waxing moon according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar (one of many calendars that dictate the vast array of festivals across Thailand see more). It is an important merit-making occasion for the Thai-Chinese people, many who believe that the spirits of their ancestors return to visit their relatives once the gates of hell are opened and the spirits of hungry ghosts are allowed to roam the earth.
At the heart of the festival is the belief that families of the living can help ease the suffering of the spirits of deceased relatives who were perhaps less than pure in heart and in their actions during their lifetime and are now trapped in any one of the 18 layers of hell, found in Buddhism and traditional Chinese folk religion. It’s also a time to honour those lost souls set adrift in the beyond, who might have died suddenly or far from home, or otherwise weren’t given a proper passage from life to death.
During the festival believers offer food including fruits and colourful desserts, which along with candles and paper money are placed at altars not only for their own ancestors but also to honour the spirits who have no living family to visit
In Phuket the most prominent food offered is that of the red turtle cakes called ‘Ang Ku,’ which come in various sizes and are made from wheat flour and sugar. For many Chinese, the turtle represents strength and is also a symbol for longevity, while the colour red simply means good luck to many of the Thai-Chinese descendants.
While there are many public events across the Kingdom, most Por Tor events take place at the family home. These normally consist of an elaborate meal laid out for the dearly departed. Traditionally, plates of rice are set around the table for each of the visiting ghosts, with a incense stick placed into each. Once the incense has burned through, the plates can be removed as this donates that the spirits have finished their meals at which time the living relatives are then free to gather at the table to dine.
In Thailand the hungry ghost is known as a Pret (เปรต). This spirit is usually invisible to the human eye, but it is human like with a tall skeleton-like figure, long neck, and very small mouth, which keeps it from ever satisfying its hunger. See more above and click here for more on Thailand’s Spirits
On the southern island of Phuket, (the Kingdom’s largest Island) the festivities center around the shrine dedicated to Por Tor, the king of hell.
Parades: There will be two parades, on the 23rd and 30th August (2016)
On August 23rd, the “Procession of the Red Turtle” begins at 11:30 – noon, Bangkok Road to Suriyadet Circle, then continue along Ranong Road to the fresh market on Ranong Rd, where it will leave the image of Por Tor until midnight.
The second parade on 30th August starts at 17:30 from the Queen Sirikit park next to the Tourism Authority of Thailand office on Thalang Road, then travels south along Thepkrasattri Road to Phuket Road, until reaching the Por Tor Gong shrine.
The parades are a joyous mass of colour and noise with the people young and old get dressed in their best traditional costumes, with the women and girls wearing ‘cheongsam’ and ‘peranakan’ (traditional Chinese-style dress) and all will be carrying flowers, turtle cakes and fruits to the shrines.
For more info: Call TAT Phuket office +66(0)7 621 2213
Pictures below from Phuket Gazette
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