Feeding the hungry ghosts in the South
SOLEMN RITUALS MIX WITH HAPPY CELEBRATIONS AS SOUTHERN THAIS LAY ON A BANQUET FOR THEIR ANCESTORS
BUDDHISTS IN the South are reconnecting with their ancestors this month in rites and celebrations that are unique in Thailand. Legend in Nakhon Si Thammarat province has it that during the 10th lunar month, the souls of deceased ancestors are freed to visit their relatives in the human world.
Believers say that during the period from the 1st to the 15th day of the waning moon, their ancestors journey back to earth from the other realm. Living descendants make merit for the spirits by making offerings of food to monks and visiting temples.
The festival culminates with a ceremony known as Ching Pret – snatching food from the hungry ghost – which kicks off with processions where the living mix with the dead, represented by people in ghostly costumes. Pret are the restless spirits torn violently from life and now wandering the other realm starved of peace.
Their living descendants place food out on high poles so that Pret can reach it. The monks, meanwhile, pray for the spirits and their final rest.
When Pret appetites are satisfied, villagers and their children rush up the poles to snatch the sacred Ching Pret leftovers.