The following activities are part of the two-day long Phi Ta Khon celebrations.
On the first day of the celebrations known as the “Wan Home” – “Day of the gathering of spirits”, the ‘Phi Ta Khon spirits’ assemble at the Chao Phor Kuan shrine at 01:00. The procession sets off for Wat Phon Chai Temple where the Buddha image in the sitting mudra is received and escorted to the Mae Nam Mun River, and then escorted back to the temple and reinstated in the Phra Upakut hall.
The local villagers then assemble to perform the “Bai See Soo Kwan” ritual to pay their respects to Chao Phor Kuan, the guardian spirit of the community. Thereafter the festive celebrations begin with the ‘spirits’ enjoying a grand feast accompanied by Isan-style festivities. The opening ceremony of the Phi Ta Khon festival is held later in the afternoon at the Dan Sai District School.
On the second day of the celebrations, the focus shifts to the merit-making rituals and sermons held during the “Boon Luang” festival.
There is another account of the origins of this folk tradition. The story is set around the Wat Phra That Sri Song Rak Temple, an ancestral site and place of worship that has long been a revered landmark of the Dan Sai community. The monument signifies a pledge of friendship and co-operation between the ancient kingdoms of Siam and Lao. According to local folklore, a couple deeply in love were forced apart by their families. They soon eloped and sought refuge in a tunnel where donations made to the Wat Phra That Sri Song Rak temple were stored. One day, the entrance to the tunnel was sealed. The couple was trapped inside. United in death, the couple became the guardian spirits of the community known as Chao Por Kuan and Chao Mae Nang Tiem. Over time, many more spirits came to serve the venerable guardian spirits. When the season for merit-making rituals comes around, the spirits emerge to take part in the procession of the Phra Upakut, the Buddha image associated with rainmaking rituals. The date of the festival is set by the appearance of the Chao Por Kuan and Chao Mae Nang Tiem guardian spirits before the village medium during a trance.
Source: Tourist Authority of Thailand