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Loy Kratong

Thailand Festivals and Public Holidays

In Thailand, years are based on the Buddhist era (B.E.), which started 543 years earlier than the Christian era. Thus the year 2010 A.D. is recognised as 2553 B.E.

In 1940, Thailand moved its New Year's Day from 13th April to 1st January. The old New Year is most definitely still a holiday (Songkran), and certainly not to be missed (assuming you don't mind getting a little bit wet).

Most Buddhists festivals and holidays follow the lunar calendar so their actual dates vary from year to year with regards to the Gregorian calendar. They also vary from country to country based on the Buddhist tradition of the country. Thailand follows the tradition of Theravada Buddhism.

Lent Day in Thailand

National Festivals   -     Loy Kratong

Loy Kratong , or 'festival of light' is celebrated on the night of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (usually November). It is one of the two most widely recognised festivals in Thailand and is probably the most beautiful, picturesque and enchanting of all Thai celebrations.

'Loy' literally means 'to float', while 'kratong' refers to a small lotus-shaped floral receptacle which can float on the water. The kratong, which was traditionally made of banana leaves, (although more creative materials are also used nowadays), contains flowers, candles and incense. According to legend, the festival originated when a young princess floated a small boat laden with candles and incense downstream to take away bad luck.

As the full moon rises, Thais will kneel at the water's edge, with floral kratong in hand, add a few small coins and several strands of hair, plucked from the head at the time, light the candles and incense, say a silent prayer, and then very carefully launch their kratong into rivers, canals, ponds, or the sea to wash away sins and to bless love affairs.
Thai lady participating in Loy Kratong parade
They will watch very intently as the float drifts slowly and silently downstream, hoping that the candle will not go out. It's flame is said to signify longevity, fulfillment of wishes and release from sins. The celebration is also considered a romantic night, as couples who make a wish together on Loy Kratong are thought to stay with each other for ever in the future.

Thai women dress in beautiful traditional Thai dresses for Loy Kratong.

Also, as part of the celebration, nearby temples will release numerous 'khom loy' (floating lanterns) into the moonlit sky, hoping that misfortune will fly away with them.

Kratongs are readily available from vendors, and everyone is extremely welcome to join in and celebrate this unique occasion. It presents a chance to make sincere wishes and look to the future while you watch, in silence, as your candlelit floral offering drifts peacefully and gracefully into the distance in the gentle currents.

National Festivals   -     Songkran

Songkran is one of the oldest traditions in Thailand, and marks the "official" Thai New Year, even though it falls in the fifth month of the Thai lunar calander. There are historical, climatic and cultural reasons as to why it does not take place on the first Thai lunar month. Songkran has its origins in ancient astrology and the position of the sun. It is held annually on 13th April, but can last for upto three days in some parts of the country.

During this auspicious celebration Thais traditionally return home for family reunions, and visit temples, sprinkling water on Buddha images in reverence. Meeting friends and sprinkling water on each others' shoulders and hands is an act of wishing good luck.

Although the tradition of gentle sprinkling in temples and homes is still practiced, Songkran has become an exuberant festival with revellers throwing water at anyone and everyone in the streets. So join in this extremely good natured fun, and cool off from the heat, but don't forget to leave cameras and all non-waterproof valuables in your room, because you are likely to get very wet.

National Festivals   -     Makha Bucha Day

This is a very important Buddhist lunar festival, celebrated nation-wide, and is based on the historic gathering of the Lord Buddha's disciples. It takes place during the full moon of the third lunar month (typically mid to late February) and devotees will join candle-lit processions around temples.

Note that Thais use a different lunar calendar to the Chinese. The first month of the Thai lunar year takes place usually in December while the Chinese lunar new year generally occurs in February. Both systems use a solar calendar for solstice-oriented festivals but make adjustments by adding a lunar month once every three solar years. As previously stated under our Songkran section, the "official" Thai New Year is actually celebrated at Songkran (during the fifth Thai lunar month).

National Festivals   -     His Majesty the King's Birthday     (Wan Chalerm)   5th December

The love and respect felt by Thai people for their King, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), who ascended the throne on 9 June 1946 and is the world's longest reigning monarch, is on display throughout the country especially on this particular day, the 5th December.

The occasion is marked by an outpouring of love and reverence by Thai people throughout the kingdom and around the world. His Majesty the King has a special place in the hearts of the Thai people through his devotion to the welfare and development of his people, and a keen understanding and awareness of political and social issues.

The King's birthday celebrations
Buildings and homes all over the country are elaborately adorned with flags, and portraits of His Majesty.

Around the Grand Palace and Ratchadamnoen Avenue areas of Bangkok, thousands of vividly colored marigolds decorate the streets.

People assemble on the streets with lit candles to honour their monarch.

The most spectacular event is perhaps the review of massed Royal Guards by their Majesties the King and Queen at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok.

Thailand Festivals and Public Holidays

Naga Fireball Festival

New Year's Day Wan Khun Pee Mai 1st January
National holiday  
National Children's Day   2nd Saturday in January
(11th January 2014)
Mahayana Buddist New Year
Although Thailand follows the Theravada tradition, many people also celebrate the Mahayana New Year
first full moon in January
(15th January 2014)
Teacher's Day
This is an occasion for pupils to pay tribute to their teachers, who are highly respected in Thailand.
16th January
Thai Army Day The King, Rama IX, visits the army and watches military parades. 25th January
Chinese New Year   (31st January 2014)
Last day of Chinese New Year Also known as Yuan Xiao Day 15th day of the
Chinese New Year
(14th February 2014)
Magha Puja Makha Bucha Day - Theravada Buddhist holiday

Based on Thai lunar calendar (on the full moon day of the third lunar month)
This is in commemoration of a spontaneous gathering of 1,250 Sangha followers who came to meet Lord Buddha 9 months after his first enlightenment. They were ordinated by Lord Buddha and enlightened. Celebrated with candle light processions three times clockwise around the temple, (usually in the evening) - (one time for the Lord Buddha, one time for the Sangha (Buddhist monk community), and one time for the Dharma (Buddhist teachings).
February full moon
(14th February 2014)

National holiday  
Valentines Day

Bangrak (district office in Bangkok) means "District of Love", and on 14 February it's a magnet for amorous Thai couples, even if St Valentine's Day is an imported Western concept.
Thais embrace festivals whatever their origin as long as they are sanuk (fun).
So, countless hotels, restaurants and nightlife venues in Bangrak celebrate romance with promotions and parties. On this day, the country's highest concentration of couples register their marriages at the District Office. It's a good-natured scrum as hundreds of brides and grooms, many in elaborate costume, declare their betrothal in public. This informal spectacle is an amusing photo opportunity never missed by the local Thai press and television.
14th February
March equinox
(20th March 2014)
Long Live HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Long Live Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

2nd April
Ching Ming Day The Clear and Bright Festival

This ancient Chinese festival takes place 104 days after the Winter Solstice in the cemeteries, where families pay respect to their ancestors with various offerings
5th April
(4th April on leap years)
Chakri Memorial Day
Commemorates King Rama I, (20th March 1737 - 7th September 1809), founder of the Chakri dynasty. Under his reign the capital city moved from Thonburi to Bangkok.
6th April
National holiday  
Thai New Year Songkran (Theravadin Buddhist New Year)

Thais celebrate the lunar new year with a lot of water! They usually return to their home town during this period.
13th - 15th April
(extending to 16th and 17th April in some areas)
National holiday for 3 days  
National Labour Day   1st May
National holiday  
Coronation Day
Celebrates the coronation of the reigning king, Bhumibol Adulyadej on 5th May 1950
5th May
National holiday  
Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Government only 2nd week of May
(11th May 2014)
National holiday  
Vesak (Buddha Day) Visakha Bucha
(Visakha Puja) - Theravada Buddhist holiday
(on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month)

Celebration of Lord Buddhas birthday, enlightenment and death (attainment of Nirvana). Miraculously, although years apart, these events fell on the same date in the same month on the Buddhist calendar. This is the most important of the Buddhist festivals.
May full moon
(13th May 2014)
National holiday  
Tuen Ng day Dragon boat festival

Chinese tradition. People celebrate by eating rice dumplings and having a dragon boat competition.
(2nd June 2014)
June Solstice
(21st June 2014)
Mid-year day Holiday only observed by the Banks 1st July
Bank holiday  
Asanha Puja Day Asarnha Bucha Day (Wan Asarnha Bucha) (Dharma Day) - Theravada Buddhist holiday
(on the full moon day of the eighth lunar month)

Celebration of Lord Buddha's first sermon given to five disciples to introduce the middle way, the noble eight fold path, and the four noble truth. Celebrated with candlelight procession.
July full moon
(11th July 2014)
National holiday  
Vassa (Buddhist Lent Day) Entering the Rains (Khao Phansa)

The day following the Asalha full moon is called "Lent Commencement Day" or "Vassupanayika" in Pali. Vassa or Phansa, both literally mean "rain, season of rain". The rainy season is also an important time for farmers, and historically they were keen to prevent their crops being accidently damaged by visitations. It marks the beginning of the Buddhist "rain retreat" and the Buddhist Lent, or "Phansa", during which all Buddhist monks retreat to the temples. It is an auspicious time for Buddhist ordinations as it marks a period of spiritual renewal and is a time devoted to study and meditation. Buddhist monks remain within the temple grounds and do not venture out for a period of three months starting from this day.
(12th July 2014)
HRH The Crown Prince's Birthday HRH The Crown Prince's Birthday

28th July
H.M. The Queen's Birthday Also doubles as Mothers Day 12th August
National holiday  
Moon Cake festival The Chinese mid-Autumn festival

Moon cakes are a special kind of sweet cake prepared in the shape of the moon and filled with sesame seeds , ground loutus seeds and eggs - served as a traditional Chinese delicacy.
(8th September 2014)
September equinox
(23rd September 2014)
End of Buddhist Lent Ok Phansa & Thot Kathin

Buddhists will offer food and other necessary goods to the monks, and is the time of the robe offering ceremonies ("thot kathin"). Many activities originated on this day and have been passed on to the present generation such as the illuminated boat procession to worship the Naga king. Normally, the illuminated boat procession is celebrated by I-San (Thailand's Northeast region (Nakhon Phanom province)) people.
(9th October 2014)
Naga Festival Bang Fai Phaya Naga (Naga fireballs of Nong Khai)

This is said to be a natural phenomenon, that generally takes place on the full moon night of the 11th lunar month, the last night of the Buddhist Lent. Fireballs can be seen rising up from the Mekong River on the night at the end of the Buddhist Lent.
The balls of light, the size of goose eggs and with uniform reddish-pink or rich crimson-burgundy hues of the Siamese Ruby, rise vertically into the night sky to heights ranging from 50 metres to 300 metres before they simply fade into thin air without a trace. The fireballs are visible for approximately 3 to 8 seconds at a time, before they vanish completely.
Scientific studies have provided ample evidence to verify the authenticity of this natural phenomenon. Tracking studies have indicated that there is much greater likelihood of the phenomenon occurring in the months of March to May, and September and October, on days when the earth gravitates closest to the sun and moon, and the depletion of the ozone layer allows ultraviolet rays to easily penetrate the stratosphere. Based on these studies, the two absolute indicators for the formation of King of Naga fireballs are the presence of Methane-Nitrogen gases of 19% purity and a sufficient concentration of Ionized Atomic Oxygen to trigger a reaction called "heterogenous combustion" that results in the mystical glow of the fireballs.
The mythical Naga is the seven headed King of Serpents. The early settlers of the Mekong River basin believed that the King of the Nagas is the God of an underwater kingdom called "Muang Badan". The god has almighty powers and watches over the people living in the Mekong basin. The Naga design element is incorporated into the architectural style of the region.
Many people come to Nong khai every year, and hotels are fully booked. There is also a friendship boat race between Thailand and Laos during this time.
(9th/10th October 2014)
Chinese Vegetarian Festival
In the south of Thailand, especially Phuket, local resiidents of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 9 day (extending to 10 days in parts of the country) vegetarian diet for the purposes of spiritual cleansing, to honour the Nine Chinese Emperor Gods. This is also known as the Gin Jay Festival.
(23rd Sep - 3rd Oct 2014)
Chulalongkorn Memorial Day Wan Piyamaharat

Commemorates King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) - the anniversary of his death. He is memorated for the modernisation of Thailand and as a result of his policies Thailand never became a colony.
23rd October
National holiday  
Halloween Day
31st October
Loy Krathong
Not an official holiday, but one of the most romantic of all Thai festivals and not to be missed. Thais float small containers with a candle, joss sticks and a coin to thank the river goddess and to ask forgiveness of past sins.
(6th November 2014)
Trooping of the Colours
Thai Royal Guards parade before members of the Royal family and pledge allegience to H.M. the King.
3rd December
H.M The King's Birthday National Day and Fathers Day

Commemorates the birthday of the current King Bhumibol Adulyadej
5th December
National holiday  
Constitution Day Commemorates the change to constitutional monarchy in 1932. 10th December
National holiday  
Winter Solstice
The December Solstice is celebrated by Chinese families. They eat dumplings or a dish made from red beans and glutinous rice to drive away ghosts and evil spirits.
(21st December 2014)
Christmas Day  
25th December
New Year's Eve  
31st December
National holiday  

* denotes Public and/or Bank Holidays

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