The Peranakan, or Straits Chinese people, are also known in Phuket as Baba. They are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the island seeking a new and better life by working in tin mines back in the 19th century. The annual mass Phuket Baba wedding festival brings back memories of the tin mining industry.
Experience all the elaborate preparations and see how the well-to-do Chinese immigrants celebrate their wedding at some of Phuket’s most elegant Sino-Portuguese mansions located in the old town quarter. Colourful street celebrations along Thalang Road decorated with red lanterns include a lively parade, a lion dance and more. It’s a great photo opportunity!
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On the big day itself, while the grooms are looking smart in their white suites, the brides turn up in their striking traditional Chinese costumes, with special hairdos, vintage jewelry and accessories. There are specific traditions surrounding this annual festival that make up the rich cultural Baba wedding event and all items chosen for this event whether it’s the food, or colour and size of objects have special symbolism; are considered to bring good luck, prosperity and fertility.
Great care is taken to ensure that all rituals are done properly and without any interruptions. Here are a few ceremonies not to be missed:
Paying homage to Heaven and Earth Ceremony: The custom of the worship of heaven and earth has been a part of Chinese culture since the ancient times. Before starting a life together, the couple will bow in front of theheaven and earth altar or in front of the groom’s family ancestors altar to first pay homage to heaven and earth and then to the family ancestors. Pay attention to the worship table/altar!
Wedding Tea Ceremony: Also at the groom’s house, the newlyweds will kneel in front of the groom’s parents while offering tea to them. Then they will offer it to other members of his family by order of age; meaning from the grandparents and uncles, aunties to his older sisters. In return they will receive small gift back (it can be anything from cash to gold and jewelry). In addition to appreciating this ceremony, it is also hoped that participation will learn to understand the idea of gratefulness and appreciation (of the children) toward parents and elders. It’s a concept that has been running strong in most Asian family for centuries.
A handful of vintage Sino-Portuguese mansions located in Phuket Old Town have become venues for the Baba wedding festival. Basically, the organizer uses a few mansions each year as the grooms’ ‘house’ and the brides’ ‘house’. These are where most important ceremonies take place. A must see is the bridal chamber that in the old days was commonly open to friends and family members on the day of the wedding.
Such remarkable buildings include the Hongyok Mansion on Thepkrasattri Road, Thai Hua Museum on Thalang Road and the Blue Elephant Cooking School & Restaurant Phuket (aka the former Phuket governor's Phra Pitak Chinpracha Mansion).
The cost for a couple to join the interesting mass wedding is about 40,000 baht. It includes traditional wedding attire for both groom and bride, a full wedding ceremony and a few nights’ hotel stay in Phuket.
The event is free and open for the public. Dress with respect to enjoy this beautiful ceremony. Any bright and cheerful colour will do. Locals and attendants are often seen in their best and colourful traditional outfits, too.
Keep in mind that dressing in black will make you unpopular as many Thai and Chinese people wear black only when attending a funeral. TAT widely promotes this event, so you can expect to see couples from nearby countries each year, such as from China, Taiwan and Japan.
- Location: Phuket Old Town
- Tel: Ms Orasiri at Thai Peranakan Association: +66(0)81 691 1955