Thai Festivals

Gorp.com

Thais are fun-loving, sentimental people and annual festivals, both commemorative and celebrative, play important roles in Thai life. Most festivals are connected either with Buddhism, the annual rice-farming cycle, or commemorations honouring Thai kings. Some occur on fixed dates. Others, particularly those associated with Buddhism, are determined by the lunar calendar. Many merit national holidays.

Here's a chronological list of Thailand's annual festivals...

Long Live the King!

Thais revere their royal family, especially His Majesty King Bhumibol, who in 2006 will be celebrating his 60th year on the throne as the world's longest reigning living monarch. Crowned in June 1946 as a young 18-year-old, King Bhumibol, or Rama IX, has presided over steady decades of growth and relative stability in Thailand. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1927 while his parents were studying medicine at Harvard and Simmons College, the King holds no direct legal power but commands impressive loyalty and respect. He is committed to fighting for the underprivileged and environmental causes, such as reforestation projects around the country. His parents’ medical background has also inspired him to improve the country’s health-care system, which is one of the most advanced in the region. Bhumibol is known to be a world-class yachtsman and has composed over 40 jazz and blues tunes to his name.

Makha Puja
Full-moon day, February
National holiday

This commemorates the occasion when 1,250 disciples spontaneously gathered to hear the Buddha preach. Merit-making, such as offering food to monks, and freeing captive birds and fishes, is interspersed with sermons throughout the day. After sunset, Buddhist monks lead the laity in a lovely triple candlelit walk-around of Buddhist chapels throughout the kingdom. Each person silently carries flowers, glowing incense and lighted candles in homage to the Buddha, his teaching and his disciples.

Flower Festival
Usually early February
At Chiang Mai, 700 kilometres north of Bangkok. This annual event features displays, floral floats, and beauty contests when the province's temperate and tropical flowers are in full bloom.

Pattaya Festival
Early April
Thailand s premier beach resort celebrates with beauty parades, floral floats, and special events, Highlights include a spectacular beachside fireworks display.

Songkran Festival
April 13 - 15
National holiday, April 12 - 14

Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year and is celebrated with special elan in Chiang Mai where because it occurs during a time of relative leisure, it becomes a 3-5 day carousel of religious merit-making, pilgrimages, beauty parades, dancing and uninhibited, good-natured water throwing.

Songkran Festival, Amphoe Phra Pradaeng
The second week of April
The Mon community of Phra Pradaeng district, Samut Prakan province, just south of Bangkok, celebrates Songkran with similar festivities.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Usually early May, at Bangkok's Sanam Luang
This ceremony marks official commencement of the annual rice-planting cycle. Presided over by His Majesty the King, elaborate Brahman ritual and ceremonial combine to provide predictions concerning the forthcoming rice crop.

Rocket Festival
The second weekend of May, and best seen in Yasothon, northeast Thailand.
Prior to the annual monsoons, Northeast villagers construct gigantic rockets to fire into the sky to 'ensure' plentiful rain during the forthcoming rice season. The Rocket Festival is traditionally a period for letting off steam before ardous field work begins in earnest, and features beauty parades, folk dances, ribald and high-spirited revelry before the rockets are ceremoniously launched.

Visakha Puja
Full Moon day, May
National holiday Visakha Puja is the holiest of all Buddhist holy days, and marks the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. Merit-making and ceremonial are identical to Makha Puja.

Fruits Fairs Countrywide
These annual fairs feature delicious provincial fruits -- including rambutan, durian, jackfruits and pomeloes, and feature cultural displays, exhibitions and folk art.

Major provinces that celebrate fruits fairs include Rayong, Chanthaburi, Chachoengsao and Hat Yai in Songkhla.

H.M. the Queen's Birthday
August 12
National holiday

Nationwide celebrations find particular focus in Bangkok where government buildings are decorated and illuminated at night with colored lights.

Ok Phansa & Thot Kathin
During OctoberOk Phansa celebrates the end of the Rains Retreat and introduces the Kathin period when, throughout Thailand, the Buddhist laity present monks with new robes and other items deemed necessary for the monkhood's upkeep during the forthcoming monastic year.

Vegetarian Festival
During OctoberPhuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a vegetarian diet for nine days. The festival's first day features a parade of white-clothed devotees and several ascetic displays.

Boat Races
October
The Kathin period marks the official end of the Rains Season and is the time for country fairs, many of which feature regattas. Nan, 790 kilometres north of Bangkok, has famous boat races. Other noteworthy regattas are held in Surat Thani, Phichit, Nakhon Phanom and Pathumthani.

Loi Krathong
Full-moon night of November
This is Thailands loveliest festival when under the full moon, Thais float away onto rivers and waterways, Krathongs, small lotus-shaped bananaleaf boats containing a lighted candle, glowing incense, a flower and small coin to honour, it is believed, the water spirits, and to wash away the previous year's sins.

Elephant Round-Up
Third weekend of November, Surin, northeast Thailand
Some 100 elephants participate in this popular event. Between folk dances and traditional cultural performances, these versatile behemoths star in displays of time-honoured wild elephant hunts, demonstrations of intelligence, strength, gentility and obedience, and the spectacular re-enactment of a medieval war elephant parade.

River Kwai Bridge Week
Late November, early December, Kanchanaburi, western Thailand
Features a thrilling son et lumiere show at the world-famous bridge. Archaeological and historical exhibitions, sparkling folk culture performances and rides on trains hauled by World War II vintage steam locomotives number among other attractions.

H.M. the King's Birthday
December 5
National holiday

On December 3, the elite Royal Guards swear anew their allegiance to His Majesty King Bhumibol in a colorful and stirring ceremony in Bangkok's Royal Plaza.

On December s, festivities occur throughout Thailand. Customarily, government buildings and houses are decorated with spectacular illuminations at night. Night-time Bangkok, particularly in the Ratchadamnoen Avenue and Grand Palace area, becomes a floodlit fairyland of colored lights.

Thanks to the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) for providing this information.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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