The sound of pounding can be heard across the villages of Thailand this time of year, as local communities gather together to commemorate the lives of those who’ve passed.
The 24th September is Sart Thai (or Sart Thai) Festival. It is traditional in Thailand to celebrate with large parades in the south, and more subtle celebrations further north. This fascinating festival bears some resemblance to the dia de la muertos of Mexico, or the hungry ghost festival of China; a celebration of life and death, highlighted with the gifting of culinary delights, flowers and sweets.
สารทไทย to the locals, Sat Thai to those of us who don’t read Thai, is held on the new moon at the end of the tenth lunar month. Families and communities gather to prepare offerings – not only for their own deceased relatives, but those of others, including the praet, giant ghosts with small mouths who are always hungry.
A sweet specialty offered during the Sat Thai festival is krayasart, a delectable combination of puffed rice, crunchy peanuts, sesame seeds and sugarcane juice. Preparing krayasat is an adventure in itself, a community event beginning with the local women preparing the ingredients. Neighboring women come from nearby, often bringing more than 20 litres of sugarcane juice from their family – people from all ages come together and bond over this special home cooking event.
Traditionally the local women gather to prepare the ingredients, while the men’s job is to use wooden paddles to stir everything within the lotus pan – requiring larger and larger paddles as the abundance of ingredients increases. The sticky mixture of sugar cane juice and lemon juice, known as tangma, becomes thicker, eventually needing two people to stir it. An experienced local elder watches over, giving expert advice to ensure that the tangma is prepared to just the right degree of stickiness.
Preparing krayasart isn’t simply about cooking, it is about bonding & sharing, gifting & honoring. It is a special occasion to gather and gift treats to the monks in the nearby temples, it is believed these offerings will keep their deceased ancestors from going hungry.
This annual tradition of gathering, cooking and remembering is much like many western holidays – bringing families and communities together to cook, to create and to gift – festivals and holidays bring a universal method of connecting with, and appreciating those around you, Sat Thai is no exception.
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