Yesterday marked the official start of the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand. In Samut Prakan it runs from 26th September to 6th October 2011. We went to Thong Siang Vegetarian House in Samut Prakan to watch this opening ceremony. The event was a signal for the nine Gods to come down to earth. Something similar happened all over Thailand. During the following ten days, people will keep a strict vegetarian diet and also obey ten basic rules which will help cleanse their mind and body. The symbol for the festival is a small yellow flag with the words in Thai “jay” which means “vegetarian”. In Thai culture, yellow represents Buddhism and good moral conduct. When looking to buy vegetarian food, we need to look out for the small yellow flags on the foodstalls.
According to legend, the nine Gods come down from heaven to inspect the earth and to record the good and bad deeds of everyone. So, during the festival it is important for Chinese people to be on their best behaviour. Refraining from eating meat means less animals being slaughtered which will gain them some merit. People taking part in the festival will often wear white and will visit their local shrines to pay respect to the spirits. If you want to visit a shrine then you should wear white too out of respect. In addition to not eating meat, strong smelling vegetables cannot be eaten. Such as garlic, onion, spring onion, Chinese chives and Chinese parsley. In Thailand, many popular Thai dishes are replicated by using tofu and extra mushrooms.
These days, it is not only people of Chinese descent that are following the strict vegetarian diet. It is also Thai people and foreigners who are living here in Thailand. Here are the ten rules that you must keep during the festival:
1. Keep your body clean during the nine days of the festival
2. Use special kitchen utensils that have never been used to prepare and cook meat
3. Wear white or yellow during the festival
4. Make your mind pure and mentally calm
5. Do not eat meat or animal products such as milk and butter, and strong smelling ingredients such as garlic and onion
6. No sex
7. No alcoholic drinks or tobacco
8. People who are mourning should not attend the festival
9. Pregnant ladies should not attend any of the ceremonies
10. Ladies who are having a period should not attend any of the ceremonies