The Festival of the Tenth Lunar Month
Sat Duan Sip, or the Festival of the Tenth Lunar Month, originated as an animistic tradition in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. It is believed that during this period, the spirits of the deceased can meet with their descendants and receive their offerings, not unlike Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
As with many lunar holidays in Thailand, the exact dates vary year to year. This year, Sat Duan Sip falls on October 6th, 2021. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s events are limited to broadcasting worship ceremonies at sacred sites and offering mrup, a special kind of dessert platter for spirits.
Spirit & karma
Since its animistic beginnings, the festival (🇹🇭) has adopted Buddhist principles, including that of karma. Karma guides the ultimate resting place of spirits, where those who commit good deeds are entitled to life after death in heaven, and those who commit bad deeds are condemned to become hungry ghosts, or praet, in hell.
Every year, people make merit during Sat Duan Sip by bringing food and other goods and offering them to their ancestors, as well as other spirits in suffering. Five traditional desserts are placed on a decorated tray called mrup and offered to the spirits:
- Khanom La symbolizes clothing, due to its resemblance to folded fabric.
- Khanom Pong symbolizes a raft that guides spirits through Samsara, a Pali word in the Buddhist faith that means the cycle of life and death.
- Khanom Deesum symbolizes cowrie shells, a currency used during the Sukhothai period.
- Khanom Gong symbolizes accessories, as it bears similarities to rings and bracelets.
- Khanom Bah symbolizes saba, a traditional Thai game played during Songkran.
Then, the attendees participate in a ritual known as Ching Praet, competing for the food and offerings. The more you’re able to take, the more merit you and your ancestors will receive. Nowaday, the rituals have been reformed with a queue system to avoid civil unrest.
Differences in other regions of Thailand
In other parts of Thailand (🇹🇭), this period of merit making and expressing gratitude towards one’s ancestors changes region to region. Commonly known as Sat Thai in central Thailand, there is a greater emphasis on going to temples, giving alms, and listening to Buddhist sermons.
In the north of Thailand, Tan Kuay Salak refers to the same event with a northern twist. Food and other goods are instead provided in a bamboo basket called a kuay, and the monk is given a ballot or salak, that determines the offering received.
The northeastern ceremony resembles that celebrated in the central region, while incorporating the Ching Praet rituals celebrated in southern Thailand. However, food from the ritual is often given to children, as well as the spirits that protect their farms.
Shared among different regions, is the tradition to serve a Thai dessert called krayasat. The snack is made of peanuts, sugar cane, sticky rice, sesame, and coconut. Its appearance resembles that of a granola bar, but with a sweeter taste and stickier texture.
According to local beliefs, krayasat must be part of any almsgiving during this time, or else one’s ancestors will have nothing to eat in the afterlife.
COVID-19 Disclaimer: The activities described here may be suspended due to movement and gathering restrictions as prescribed by COVID-19 health precautions.