The Vegetarian Festival (The Nine Emperor Gods Festival) is a nine-day Taoist celebration beginning on the eve of 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which is observed primarily in South-east Asian countries like Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Southern Vietnam, Thailand and also the Indonesia. This year, the festival runs from the 1st to 9th October. Chinatown is the gathering point for the festivities, and you will find rows of temporary stalls selling a wide variety of dishes from sweet cakes to noodle soups. Today, Great Gastro brought you a closer look on how Thai people celebrate this relevant day.
During Tesagan Gin Je Festival (Vegetarian Festival) yellow and red flags that signal a shop or stall is selling food in line with the festival regulations can be seen fluttering in the wind. Vendors and proprietors of restaurants indicate that jeh food is for sale at their establishments by putting a yellow flag out with the word เจ (jeh) written on it in red. However, technically, only food prepared in the sacred kitchen of the Chinese temple (is jeh, as it must undergo a series of rituals before it can be given that name.
On the eve of the ninth moon, temples of the deities hold a ceremony to invoke and welcome the nine emperors. Since the arrival of the gods is believed to be through the waterways, processions are held from temples to the sea shore or river to symbolise this belief. Devotees dressed in traditional white, carrying incense and candles, await the arrival of their excellencies.
A carnival-like atmosphere pervades the temple throughout the nine-day festival. During this period of time, the constant tinkling of a prayer bell and chants from the temple priests are heard. Most devotees stay at the temple, eat vegetarian meals and recite continuous chanting of prayer. It is believed that there will be rain throughout the nine days of celebration.
In Thailand, this festival is celebrated throughout the entire country, but the festivities are at their height in Phuket, where about 35% of the population is Thai Chinese. It attracts crowds of spectators because of many of the unusual religious rituals that are performed.
People observing the festival should abstain from eating meat, animal oil and five pungent-odour vegetables, viz. garlic, onion, Chinese chives, garlic chives and tobacco. The vegetarians can have their vegetarian meals either at home or at a Chinese temple nearby.The ninth day of the festival is its climax. A procession which draws scores of devotees sends the deities back home. There is also rules for the vegetarian festival.
Rules/precepts for the Vegetarian Festival:
- Maintain a clean body.
- Clean kitchen utensils and use separate utensils to those people not participating in the festival.
- Wear white.
- Behave yourself both mentally and physically. Do not harm any person or animal.
- Do not eat meat or other animal-based products. Do not eat onion, garlic or chives.
- Abstain from sexual activities.
- Do not consume alcohol.
- Do not take part in the festival if you are in a state of mourning.