Phuket Vegetarian Festival
postmarked in 2012 with a Thailand 'Ao Maya' beach stamp
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The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is a colourful event held over a nine-day period in October, celebrating the Chinese community's belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar will help them obtain good health and peace of mind.
One of the most exciting aspects of the festival are the various, (and sometimes gruesome) ceremonies which are held to invoke the gods. Firewalking, body piercing and other acts of self mortification undertaken by participants acting as mediums of the gods, have become more spectacular and daring as each year goes by. Men and women puncture their cheeks with various items including knives, skewers and other household items. It is believed that the Chinese gods will protect such persons from harm, and little blood or scarring results from such mutilation acts. This is definitely not recommended for the faint hearted to witness.
Loud noises are another feature of the Vegetarian Festival. Drums are played and firecrackers are randomly lit. People try to make as much commotion as possible in order to ward off evil spirits. In 2011, there were 74 injuries and one death reported during the festival. Perhaps surprisingly, it was not the self-mortifying rituals that led to most of these injuries but wayward firecrackers.