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Lesson Transcript

Culture Class: Holidays in Thailand, Lesson 19 – Vegetarian Festival
Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Thailand Series at ThaiPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Thai holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 19, Vegetarian Festival. In Thai, it’s called เทศกาลกินเจ (thêet-sà-gaan gin jee).
In this lesson, we’re talking about Vegetarian Festival, which falls on the 9th day of the 9th month and lasts for 9 days. This is a period when most Thai people, especially Thai people of Chinese ethnicity, make merit by avoiding eating meat. There are many delicate procedures regarding this observance.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question-
Can people who participate in the Vegetarian Festival smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
The Vegetarian Festival in Thailand was influenced by Chinese people. There was once a folk-tale told many years ago concerning a Chinese opera-performing group that came to Thailand. It is said that not long after the performance, some people in the group fell sick and they realized that they did not hold a vegetarian ceremony to worship the gods, which they usually did every year in China. Thus, they decided to hold this event in Thailand. After holding the ceremony, their diseases were cured, as well as diseases among people in the neighboring areas. Since then, Thai people have followed this practice as another way to take care of their health, or สุขภาพ (sùk-khà-phâap).
Because so many people participate in this Vegetarian Festival, many restaurants switch from selling food made from meat, or เนื้อสัตว์ (núuea-sàt), to vegetables, or ผัก (phàk), and decorate their storefronts with a yellow flag containing a symbol notifying customers that the food in the restaurants is all vegan food, or อาหารเจ (aa-hăan jee). A vegetarian food festival is usually observed in the Chinese neighborhoods or public areas in each province as well. The event is attended by many restaurants selling both savory and sweet food, and are notable for having upwards of 100 types of drinks.
During the Vegetarian Festival period, people usually go to the Chinese areas close to their home because there are celebrations and a parade of Chinese statues in each shrine where people can pay their respects. There is also free vegetarian food offered to villagers, a lion dance to bring in prosperity, and a donation to buy cattle. People who go to the temple can also donate as they wish.
People who are very strict with eating only vegetarian food also engage in a tradition of “cleaning the stomach.” They eat vegetarian food one day before the festival and avoid any restricted meat, vegetables or food. This is to get rid of any remaining food in their body. When the Vegetarian Festival starts, their body will be clean and ready to attend the festival.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
Can people who participate in this Vegetarian Festival smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol?
No. Even though cigarettes and liquor are made from plants, cigarettes are made from a pungent plant. Hence, it is prohibited to smoke. Likewise, liquor is intoxicating. Since abstinence from alcohol is required of people to maintain good Buddhist practice, it is also forbidden to drink.
So listeners, how did you like this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
Is there a similar Vegetarian Festival in your country?
Leave us a comment telling us at ThaiPod101.com!
And I’ll see you in the next lesson!