Por Tor Hungry Ghost Festival
The Por Tor Hungry Ghost Festival is one of the Thai festivals that relies on the moon for its precise date. Specifically it takes place on the first day of the waxing moon, in the seventh lunar month. This typically falls in late August or early September.
In 2016 it began on August 17th, and in 2017 it’s roughly scheduled to commence on September 5th.
The Por Tor Hungry Ghost Festival is – as the name suggests – a festival where the spirits need feeding. There are parades, but the main focus is, of course, food; both for the living and the dead. People offer food for both their own ancestors, and those spirits who no longer have living family members.
Because of its focus on family, most Por Tor events take place in the home. Different public celebrations do take place around the country, however, and we’ve recommended the best place to go in our ‘Where’ section.
Por Tor is another example of Thailand’s multicultural approach to festivals. It’s originally a Chinese celebration, but is now observed with enthusiasm in various locations in Thailand.
The story goes that on the day of Por Tor, the gates of hell are opened up, and the starving spirits are allowed back out onto the earth for a chance to eat again, usually with their own family if they still have living descendants.
For the living, it’s a chance to help out their ancestors who might not have led the purest lives, and have been forever trapped in hell because of it.
The best place to celebrate the Por Tor Hungry Ghost Festival is, without doubt, Phuket. The island has a large Chinese/Thai-Chinese population, and they have really made the event their own; it’s more renowned in Phuket than it is in Bangkok, despite the capital’s large Chinatown.
One of the most famous traditions in Phuket is to make ‘Ang Ku’; red turtles made out of flour and sugar that can be bite-sized or enormous.
The center of the celebrations is the Seng Tek Bel shrine (aka Por Tor Kong shrine), in Phuket Town; the event goes on for seven days there, as opposed to the usual two days elsewhere, and there are loads of delicious Chinese food stands nearby. Another popular location to try is the market on Ranong Road in Phuket Town.
There are also usually two parades in Phuket for Por Tor; one at the beginning of the celebrations, and another slightly later. These run through Phuket Town, with the participants dressed in traditional Chinese clothing, and more red turtles on show than you could possibly count!