Phi Tha Khon Festival
Dancing with the Ghosts
Sometimes known as Ghost Festival, is the most common name for a group of festivals held in Paklay, Sayaboury province, Laos and Loei province, Isan, Thailand
The events take place over three days some time between March and April, the dates being selected annually by the town’s mediums.
The whole event is called Boun Phavet, part of a Buddhist merit-making holiday.
The first day is the Ghost Festival itself. The town’s residents invite protection from the Phi Ta Khon, the spirits of people’s eyes. They then hold a series of games and take part in a procession wearing masks made of rice husks or coconut leaves with hats made from rice steamers, plus patchwork clothing. They also wear bells and wave wooden phalluses.
The origins of this part of the festival are traditionally ascribed to a story of the Vessantara Jataka in which the Buddha in one of his past lives as a prince made a long journey and was presumed dead. The celebrations on his return were so raucous as to wake the dead.
The second day of the festival incorporates elements of the Rocket Festival, plus costume and dance contests and more parades.
On the third and final day, the villagers listen to sermons from Buddhist monks.
In Paklay district, between March and April.