Dragons danced through the streets and 5,000 people dined on “dumplings with heavenly ingredients” during the annual Pattaya Vegetarian Festival opening ceremonies.
Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit welcomes one and all to the festivities during the official opening.
Legend has it that the annual festivities in Thailand were begun over 180 years ago in Phuket by Chinese immigrants because of a mysterious epidemic that occurred. Many people became sick and died, and no one knew what the cause was. So, the elders decided that it must be some god or deity that was punishing the Chinese workers for not following their traditional rituals. People were ordered to fast as a penance to the “Gods”, to make merit, and ask for forgiveness. After 9 days of fasting, it seemed to have worked, as the disease vanished.
The village elders then decided to have a yearly ceremony to appease the Chinese divinities, but instead of fasting, everyone would become vegetarians and follow a strict code of conduct of no meat, no sex, and no alcohol for 10 days.
This Vegetarian Festival became so popular that it spread throughout all of Thailand, and as the years have passed many bizarre things began to happen. People began to become possessed by spirits during the festival. Hindu like self-mutilation and body piercing began to appear in villages. The Vegetarian Festival got so bizarre that it even started to draw many tourists to Thailand.
Locally, the annual vegetarian festival has its origins in the founding of the Sawang Boriboon Foundation some 50 years ago by the Chinese business community in Naklua. Many restaurants and food outlets take part, a yellow flag with the Thai word “Jay” signifying that they are serving vegetarian food. No spiritual possession or self-mutilation takes place here, and those taking part are not limited to people with Chinese origins, as all nationalities are encouraged to participate.
Feeding the dragon for good luck.
On opening day, Oct. 7, “Pad Yad Thip Paed Sien” was fried up in a giant pan at the Sawang Boriboon Foundation’s “Vegetarian House”. The dish - made of specially ordered tear-shaped rice-flour dumplings, ginkgo and cashew nuts, bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, dried bean curd and vegetarian seasoning - was passed out to thousands of revelers, many dressed in white to honor the end of the Buddhist Lent season.
The festivities began at 12:29 p.m. Oct. 7 with the annual dual-headed procession, consisting of “Kiew Huang Huk Jow” (the 9 deities who were the spiritual mascots of this year’s vegetarian festival) and “Bhodisttava” (also known as Chow Mae Kuan Im, the Goddess of Mercy, Compassion & Healing) from Bali Hai Pier and up Walking Street. The parade group then split, with half following Beach Road to Central Road and turning right. The second branch traveled along Second Road, stopping at Mike Shopping Mall for a dragon show, then met the first group at Central Road. Reunited, the groups moved to Third Road and then jumped on buses to go to the Sawang Boriboon headquarters in Naklua.
Once again, the famed Eng-Kor-Pabu troops from the Look Praya group out of Nakhon Sawan performed at the Sawang Boriboon Thammasathan Foundation in Naklua.
New Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit and Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome presided over the opening ceremonies, noting the festival is a nod to the heritage of Thai-Chinese and an opportunity for Buddhists to clean their souls of sin by refraining from eating meat.
“Pattaya tourism industry is known for its variety, but tradition remains important,” Wichit said. “The festival has always been well attended, showing cultural promotion is a good way to promote tourism.”
The festival finished Oct. 17.
Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit and Pattaya City Council members fry up “Pad Yad Thip Paed Sien” to celebrate the official opening of the Vegetarian Festival.
White clad participants walk in the joss stick parade, which is a Chinese tradition to invite sanctity.
White clad participants offer joss sticks to continue the ancient tradition of the Thai-Chinese Vegetarian Festival to commit to being pure physically and mentally.
Happy children return home with a little dragon souvenir.
(L to R) Former MP Chanyuth Hengtrakul, Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit and Banglamung City Chief Mongkol Thamakittikhun taste test the delicious “Pad Yad Thip Paed Sien” they prepared together.
Eng-Kor-Pabu dancers from the Look Praya group out of Nakhon Sawan perform at the Sawang Boriboon Thammasathan Foundation in Naklua.