"Tesagan Gin Je": What is the Thai Vegetarian Festival? (เจ )
What is the Thai vegetarian festival?
Every year in October, supermarkets, minimarts, and restaurants begin displaying yellow and red flags, meaning that the food they sell is “je” (เจ) , or proper to eat during the 9-day Vegetarian Festival.
The “Nine Emperor Gods Festival” is actually a Chinese festival, but was brought to Thailand by the large and prominent Chinese-Thai population. The festival is mostly celebrated in Bangkok and in Phuket, where the Chinese-Thai populations are the largest, though is celebrated throughout the country.
What foods are forbidden during the Je Festival?
The festival is usually translated to “Vegetarian Festival”, but is actually a lot more complicated than that. Technically, it’s more of a vegan festival, but there are other foods that are forbidden as well. It’s not just meat that is forbidden! During the festival, participants may not eat:
No meat, poultry, seafood
No animal products (milk, eggs, etc)
No strong vegetables (onion, garlic, chives, etc)
Technically, Je dishes must be ritually prepared in the kitchen of a Chinese temple, although this aspect is usually overlooked
Vegetarian Festival in Phuket
While the festival is celebrated in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand by refraining from eating certain foods, the celebration in Phuket, the kingdom’s largest island, is quite different. During the nine-day festival in the south, very devout practitioners will mutilate themselves, slashing their tongues and impaling their cheeks with bamboo skewers. This is done in veneration to the Chinese gods.