Phi Ta Khon Festival (Ghost Festival) 2022

Northeast, Thailand
01 July 2022

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Phi Ta Khon Festival (Ghost Festival) 2022

The Phi Ta Khon Festival, more commonly known as the Ghost Festival of Thailand, is a colorful part in Thailand’s rich tradition of ghost and spirit folklore and bears a passing resemblance to Mexico’s Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.”

While the exact dates of the festival are usually announced by local spirit mediums, Phi Ta Khon typically starts on a Friday during the first weekend after the sixth full moon of the year. This year’s Phi Ta Khon Festival will be held from July 1st–3rd, 2022.

The origins of Phi Ta Khon

A group of men wearing traditional ghost costumes at Phi Ta Khon Festival
Source: Mercedess / Shutterstock.com

Like many festivals and traditions in Thailand, Phi Ta Khon is a colorful expression of the people’s Buddhist faith. It is believed that when the Lord Buddha’s penultimate incarnation, Prince Vessandara, returned to his city, the joyous occasion caused village spirits to come forth and join the welcoming parade.

In remembrance of this Buddhist legend, the townspeople will dress up in phi ta khon or “ghost masks” and throw a grand parade in Dan Sai district, Loei province. The three-day festivities are unique to Dan Sai district, though it shares elements with other events such as the Bun Bang Fai Festival, which is also celebrated in the northeast of Thailand.

Ghost masks

Local people in Loei province wearing a traditional ghost mask at Phi Ta Khon Festival
Source: MOLIPIX / Shutterstock.com

Ghost masks are made of dried sticky rice husk and painted in bright red, green, or other colors and the prominent feature is the long pointed nose. The masks consist of a large head piece made from woven cones used to steam sticky rice. The face is carved out of wood or banana trunks. The costumes were traditionally sewn from old cloth, but locals now wear jumpsuits patched from colorful fabrics.

There’re two types of spirits at the Ghost Festival: phi ta khon yai or “large ghost mask,” the supreme phi ta khon that can be made by those who received permission from ghosts, and phi ta khon lek or “small ghost mask,” which can be made and worn by anyone.

The making of phi ta khon yai involves the performance of a sacred ritual to seek supernatural blessings before beginning the crafting process. The role of making phi ta khon yai is reserved exclusively for the descendants of certain families who have practiced the art for several generations.

What to expect during the festival

Locals and tourists at Phi Ta Khon Festival, Dan Sai district, Loei province
Source: doctor_k / Shutterstock.com

There are many activities that visitors can participate in at the Phi Ta Khon Festival, which include:

  • Grand opening ceremony at Dan Sai District Office
  • Grand parade with musical performances
  • Phi Ta Khon costume competition
  • Almsgiving with Buddhist monks
  • Bai Si spirit summoning ceremony

How to reach Loei province

There are multiple ways to get to the Ghost Festival in Loei province. Festival-goers from Bangkok can take a one-hour flight or an eight- to nine-hour interprovincial bus.

For more information about Phi Ta Khon Festival, visit Tourism Authority of Thailand’s official website or reach out via email at tatloei@tat.or.th.