Asian American · Thailand

Gin Salat (Thailand’s day of the dead)

Gin Salat reminds me of Japan’s Bon Festival or Mexico’s Día de los Muertos. In Thailand, we honor the deceased by creating “salats” adorned with household goods. The idea being that whatever things the dead used while living, like toothbrushes and toothpaste, are needed again in the afterlife too.

Last year on November 5th, in Lamphun, my family celebrated Gin Salat. This is not a common or well-known holiday. You won’t see Gin Salat in the cities, in guidebooks or the Internet. (At least I haven’t so far.)

Most likely because Gin Salat is considered ‘old fashioned’ or ‘country’. But since my mom is from Lamphun, I was fortunate enough to attend these celebrations in 2009 and last year. 2012 was a particularly special year as Gin Salat was celebrated at our family temple.

Here is a 'salat' being built.
Here is a ‘salat’ being built.
Families or communities create these.
Families or communities create these.
They seem to be getting taller each year!
They seem to be getting taller each year!
We had 2 salats built in honor of my grandparents and father.
We had 2 salats built in honor of my grandparents and father.
My father
My father
Donations to be given to the temple in honor of the dead.
Donations to be given to the temple in honor of the dead.
My mother is all smiles...
My mother, on the right, is all smiles…
It was much cooler in the elevated wat.
It was much cooler in the elevated wat.
In Lamphun, at the family temple.
In Lamphun, at the family temple.
Household items like toilet paper are given to the deceased.
Household items like toilet paper are given to the deceased.
Even lottery tickets! Good luck!
Even lottery tickets! Good luck!
Folks seek shade and wait for the ceremony to begin.
Folks seek shade and wait for the ceremony to begin.
My aunt helps a boy find the name on the paper.
My aunt helps a boy find the name on the paper.
After the names have been found, a monk reads and blesses.
After the names have been found, a monk reads and blesses.
The water pouring ceremony...
The water pouring ceremony…
My cousin Fon and me :)
My cousin Fon and me 🙂
Everything is taken down as soon as the ceremony is over!
Everything is taken down as soon as the ceremony is over!
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10 thoughts on “Gin Salat (Thailand’s day of the dead)

    1. Yes. I remembered trying to find out more about this since my mother’s explanations aren’t always satisfying and she’s no Buddhism expert, but there isn’t anything out there (at least in English). It seems very Chinese in origins ala ancestor worship.

      And super colorful indeed! Thanks!

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  1. I was not aware of this festival until I saw your post. What wonderful towers of color the household goods make. For your visit to this festival, and pictures which captured it so beautifully, I offer you the “Awakening Mindlessness” blog award for spiritual content.

    Now, if I can just manage to orchestrate such a festival at my own ashram in Pondicherry, I could amass enough tooth brushes and toilet paper to not have to shop for them for years to come, which is not to say that would be my main objective.

    I’ve sent you the award and installation instructions if you are interested.

    Namaste

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    1. Oh thank you Sri. I am so honored and overjoyed to meet this award face to face. You are too kind. I hope to visit Pondicherry one day and thank you in person.

      Like

  2. Absolutely beautiful, Lani. I’d never heard of this festival, and at first, when I saw the title of your post, I thought it meant “eat salad”! Thanks for sharing all the colorful photos and meaning of the salats. I love the Asian way of honoring family who have pssed on so they are not forgotten.

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    1. Thanks Amy. There was plenty of food there, but no salad 😛

      Yes it’s a nice way to honor family, but like any religious ceremony, there’s a lot of waiting too!

      Like

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