One of the major Chinese festivals held during the year is “ting krachaat”. It is not restricted to a particular day but it has to take place before the start of “Sart Chin” which this year is in early September. I attended the annual Ting Krachaat Festival at the Thamma Katanyoo Foundation in Bang Pu Mai sub-district of Samut Prakan on Sunday. The Ruam Kuson Foundation in Taiban held theirs two days later. It is difficult to translate the name of this festival into English. However, “krachaat” is a kind of wicker basket or large container. The word “ting” means “to empty”. So, I guess you could translate this as the “Emptying of the Wicker Basket Festival”. In reality it is a kind of Chinese Philanthropy Festival. Local Chinese business people and private individuals donated a large amount of money to buy several hundred tons of rice to be distributed to the poor people in the district.
The ceremony was due to start at 3 p.m. I am glad I turned up early as there must have been at least three thousand people there already. They all had wooden tickets and were sitting in long rows under a large tented area. I guess many of them would have been there for several hours already in order to be at the front of the queues. When I arrived, a Chinese God was being transported around the area on a chair which was attached to three poles. A Chinese lay man, in front of the chair was in a kind of trance and was handing out small food items, presumably on behalf of the Chinese god. He was also blessing people with sacred water. From here they went on to various other shrines around the temple complex.
Behind the main area where the crowd was waiting, about a hundred round tables had been set up for a feast. There was a lot of food that included fish, pork, fowl, vegetable, fruits and sweetmeats. At first I thought this had been set up for the poor people to eat a meal. However, it soon became obvious that this was the normal practice of the Chinese to offer food to dead ancestors. Some people were going around with incense sticks and placing these in the food on each of the tables. Surrounding this area were also many gold and silver paper decorations. Once the food had been offered to the ancestors the paper was all collected up and then burned in a large fire.
All this time, the local poor people were waiting patiently in the heat. But, it wasn’t over yet. First there had to be speeches and the official opening ceremony led by Mr. Surachai Kanasa, the deputy governor of Samut Prakan, who turned up late. Then it was time for the distribution of the rice bags. There were many volunteers on duty as well as security guards who were all helping to make sure everything went smoothly. People came forward with their tickets and were then each given two bags of rice. There was potential for riots and chaos but the distribution was done in a calm manner. Announcements were made often that there would be enough rice for everyone and that there was no need to panic. In the end, there was more than enough and they had to then work out what to do with the remainder.