Small offerings of food and drink outside Thai massage parlour?
July 5, 2017 12:49 AM   Subscribe

There's a Thai massage parlour down the street, and every day there's a table outside with 2-3 small glasses (with bright red, white, and/or clear liquids) and 1-2 small bowls (with a spoonful of rice or a couple of biscuits). I've never seen anyone eat or drink it. Any ideas why it's there - does it have any cultural significance?
posted by rawrberry to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does the table itself have other items to it that indicates it's an altar of some kind? then it's usually just a typical set of offerings.
posted by cendawanita at 12:58 AM on July 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

"In Thailand, it’s common to believe in paranormal spirits. This alone is not particularly extraordinary. The same is true of people in Iceland, Taiwan, the United States and many cultures around the world.

But Thailand is unique in its melding of spirituality and cuisine. To appease the spirits in Thailand, skip the somber incantations or spells. These ghosts prefer snacks."

Or strawberry Fanta.
posted by tula at 12:58 AM on July 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

It's offerings. There's probably a spirit house or an altar around that you don't quite recognise visually. Look for something red and gold painted typically or a small pot with sand in it that might have some joss sticks in it nearby. There may be a small ceramic statue tucked up higher up on a shelf if it's a busy place that's a Buddhist or Taoist deity.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:58 AM on July 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

A family member of mine, who was Thai with Chinese heritage, passed away whilst on holiday in the south of Thailand. During the journey back to Bangkok, in a minibus with the body, we had to light incense, have food laid out and call out directions at each junction. Similar provisions were made when the body was lying in the temple, prior to cremation.

The explanation I was given is that when somebody dies, their spirit will remain on Earth for a while until it's time for them to move on. It's important for the spirit to stay close to its loved ones and home, or it might get lost and be unable to move on. It also needs to be nourished to build up its strength for the journey ahead.

As the spirit lacks a body, it's missing the "physical" senses of sight and touch; but it can still hear, smell and taste. By using incense and food and calling out to the spirit, its loved ones can prevent the spirit from getting lost and provide it with sustenance.
posted by matsho at 5:43 AM on July 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

"Thai massage parlour" is kind of non-specific; lots of "Japanese Sushi Restaurants" aren't actually run by people of Japanese heritage &c&c.

Is there a statue in a little alcove? Do they have red skin? If so, that could be Confucian ancestor/saint worship. Leaving food/incense is a devotional ritual. In some variants, whole large good-looking oranges/madarins are a common variant for bits of food (the oranges/mandarins don't have to be swapped out as often).

If they're doing the daily food bits thing, it may suggest that they are more.... .... fundamentalist and might be more newly emigrated from their home country.
posted by porpoise at 12:17 AM on July 6, 2017

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