Thailand buys more Fanta than the USA or China
Anyone who has visited a shrine in Thailand may have noticed an abundance of red Fanta bottles nestled next to other auspicious items such as fruit and burning incense, but why?
In the west, strawberry Fanta is often found hidden behind more prominent leading soft drinks such as Coca-Cola, Sprite and elder brother orange Fanta. However, in Thailand, strawberry Fanta seems to be ubiquitous not only in newsagents but in shrines too.
If you’re already casting judgement about a nation leaving beverages for mythical beings, may I remind you that children in the west are encouraged to leave out milk for Santa and wine is left out for the prophet Elijah during Jewish Passover.
PRI reports that it is not uncommon for people to believe in in the paranormal in Thailand. The same is true for other countries across the world, including the US and the UK. However, Thailand adds a new dimension to these spirits: one of spirituality and cuisine.
It is believed that in order to appease spirits in Thailand, one must provide snacks. These snacks often include rice, water, fruit, desserts and the aforementioned red strawberry Fanta – which is actually the most popular offering.
PRI adds that if you walk through the streets of Bangkok, you’ll notice “dozens of opened, unconsumed Fanta bottles in conspicuous locations.” Each bottle is often placed in front of what looks like an enchanted dollhouse AKA a ‘spirit house’.
Every home in Thailand reportedly has a spirit house, which effectively acts as a congregation area for friendly ghosts. Humans leave offerings out for the ghosts for good luck – stealing from the ghosts result in bad luck. If one treats the ghosts well, the spirits will in return, defend the house from demonic forces.
Watcharapol Jack Fukijdee, a host of Ghost Radio, said, “The dark spirits won’t go so far as to kill you but if Thai people have accidents, people say it’s because they didn’t give offerings to the spirits”
“You don’t take care of them? They won’t take care of you. You’ll start arguing with your family. Stuff will go missing. You’ll fall ill,” added the 40-year-old host. Fukjidee’s Ghost Radio is offers a call-in based program that focuses entirely on paranormal activity in Thailand.
“It is believed that treating spirits well also results in other benefits. “You can ask them for anything,” says Chatgaew Pinjulai, a 50-year-old woman who sells Fanta and other spirit offerings by the roadside. “Let me be free from illness! May my relatives avoid traffic collisions! Give me smart and studious children! Anything you want.”
But why strawberry Fanta?
“It’s just a tradition,” says the Chatgaew. “A very pervasive tradition.”
“But red-colored Fanta is far and away the most popular,” Chatgaew adds. “It’s good stuff. One Fanta will get you 10 wishes.”
The vendor also says that spirits enjoy sweet items. According to PRI, “a typical Thai-sized serving is an 8.5-ounce bottle packed with 32 grams of sugar.”
Furthermore, the red colour of strawberry Fanta is significant. “Red is a lucky color,” writes The Strategic Retreat, “Red is the color of blood and is a replacement for a blood sacrifice. It’s a symbolic offering of life force.”
The travel website also references the glass structure of the Fanta bottle. “Unlike many other beverages, Fanta comes in a glass. It won’t be blown over in a moderate wind. Practicality goes a long way in appeasing earth spirits in a country prone to sudden storms.”
According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand is Fanta’s fourth-largest market in the world, ahead of US and China.
The ghost that enjoys red Fanta the most is a boy named Kuman Thong. Belief in the spirit and offerings is not derived from Buddhism. The belief actually comes from an ancient practice known as ‘animism’, which is similar to western paganism in its strong belief in spirits.
“Don’t confuse [animism] with Buddhism,” Fukijdee says. “It’s all about beckoning angels to take care of you.”
Some believe that the red Fanta practice is derived from bloody animal sacrifices – the red representing the blood. However, Fukjidee believes that the spirits are strictly vegetarian.
“No, no, no,” he says. “Angels want fruit and Fanta and other nice things. They won’t touch anything bloody, nothing that was killed. Only a demon would be interested in that.”