The Chinese Ghost Festival, known in Thai as Sart Cheen falls on the 15th lunar day of the 7th lunar month which was August 22 this year.
On this day Thais of Chinese descent pay homage to the ghosts of their deceased ancestors by offering them food and sweets while asking for their blessings in return.
The living offer foods which are usually vegetarian dishes, sweets and cakes, ornately prepared in accordance to the centuries old Chinese recipes passed down through the generations.
The mouth-watering delicacies include the Khanom Keng, (Chinese Rice Cake) Khanom Thian, (Candle Pudding) Khanom Pia (Chinese Cake) and Khanom Puifai (Cotton Wool Cake).
Usually a day or two before any Chinese festival the markets are packed with Thai-Chinese shoppers rushing to buy ceremonial provisions in preparation for the rituals and festivities.
The Pattaya Mail reporter stopped by the Rattanakorn Market on Siam Country Club Road on August 21, where we spoke to Rattana Sae Pua, 42 a traditional Chinese sweets vendor.
Rattana said, “There are not as many customers in the market as there were in previous years. The COVID-19 pandemic has scared the people off. Not only are they not coming to buy provisions as they used to under normal circumstances, but even now during the Chinese festive days, many families choose to perform modest rituals at home rather than risk getting infected in public places.
Rattana went on to say, “In former times, I sold 700-800 kgs of sweets per festive period, but this year because of the business slowdown I ordered only 300 kgs. I did not want to risk having a large amount of unsold products leftover, which I would have to throw away.
“During the pandemic we have consistently suffered” Rattana bemoaned, “The authorities would close our markets because infected people were detected in the area and we had to abandon our businesses for many days while the market was decontaminated.
“Many merchants suffered, but fortunately for me I have stands in other markets, so I was able to recover a little bit of income.
Rattana went on to say, “Even with the price fluctuation of ingredients such as peanuts and banana leaves, we have to maintain our selling price at 130 baht per kg.
As regards to consumer spending Rattana said, “Even though the prices are reasonable, because of the dire economic situation, people are buying less. Some customers used to order up to 20 cases each time but now have reduced their orders to only 5-10 cases.
“This of course hurts our income, we still have to pay 25,000 baht a month rental fee and our staff get 500-600 baht per day”
Looking ahead with hope and optimism, Rattana said, “No matter what, we still have to carry on doing our businesses. We hope that in the 2 festival shopping days, more people will come out to buy our sweets to offer to their hungry ancestral ghosts who come to visit their families.”