Thailand’s very own Ghostbusters


ghost festival thai lampangImage adapted from: นครลำปาง ทันข่าว

Thai culture is paved with superstitions and religious beliefs, which are ingrained in daily life. Last week, a group of 200 members from Sawang Foundation got together in Lampang Province as a part of the annual Chinese Ghost Festival.

From dusk till midnight, members held a holy stick which was used to guide them to spots in the neighbourhood that were believed to be haunted by ghosts. They then used a threshing basket to “collect” stray spirits – more than 1,000 spirits were reported to be captured that night.


Chinese ghost festival in Thailand


These ghosts are believed to be wandering spirits who died from accidents and have been trapped in the human world. By receiving offerings, they are believed to be able to cross over.

Also known as Ting Kra Jad, the Chinese Ghost Festival is where offerings are made for the dead – especially those who have died anonymously or with no kin – at temples across the country. This is similar to Hungry Ghost Festivals in Singapore and Malaysia where people pray for their dead ancestors.

ghost festival thai lampangImage credit: SawangNakornLampang

Goods like rice, detergent, and tissue paper will be gathered as offerings for the spirits to receive in the afterlife.

ghost capture festival thai lampangBurning paper gold for the dead
Image credit: SawangNakornLampang

In a Chinese household, families give offerings to their own ancestors. Gold paper, fake money, and paper assets will also be burned for the dead to spend. This festival takes place during the 7th month of the Lunar calendar, which is August.


Locals were mesmerised by the ritual IRL


During the ritual, cars with sirens and speakers were used to attract the attention of people in the area. Team members also informed the locals through speakers that they were capturing spirits.

ghost capture festival thai lampangEvery time a ghost is caught, an announcement  is made if the spirit is a man or a woman, an adult or a child
Image credit: นครลำปาง ทันข่าว

It was an exciting time as this specific ritual doesn’t occur very often, despite the festival being held annually.


A way to collect donations for the needy


At first glance, a story like this can seem rather silly and nonsensical. But look closely and you’ll see that such festivals are a way for newer generations to remember family members of the past.

Moreover, it is a great way for people to help others with donations. Food and goods donated during the festival are not disposed after it’s over – these are given out to the needy.

ghost festival thai lampangImage credit: Ban Muang

Sometimes, superstitious practices are not at all about the supernatural – but about fellow humans and how we can take care of each other.