After a short time living in Thailand, you will notice that there is not a shortage of ceremonies and festivals all over the year. These celebrations are occasions, especially in rural areas, for observing a religious event, royal ceremonies or just for family encounters, for enjoying after months of hard work or just for asking for a good harvest season.
We should make clear that not all festivals are national public holidays, and that some of them are regionals. Most festivals were introduced in Thailand centuries ago, by different cultures that had left their influence which were absorbed into the Thai culture and customs, with a Thai” touch” added, resulting in a fascinating blend of Buddhism and local animism beliefs.
Although the celebrations are based mainly on the lunar cycle, there are also agricultural events which have a close relation with the rainy season, the solar method of calculation which were introduced from India, decisions made by court astrologers, dates selected by government officials and then, some Western holidays were also adopted. Having as a result a calendar that seems to get more crowed every year, with Buddhist Festivals, Agricultural Festivals, Traditional Cultural Festivals, Sporting Festivals and Royal festivals and adopted Western celebrations that are, already, part of Thai life.
As we have already mentioned, the contents that you will find in this page, is the result of our research to which we have added some comments of our own. Therefore, the information that we are presenting, is based on a fantastic book , that is worth buying and reading : Traditional Festivals in Thailand by Ruth Gerson. Unfortunately, this edition is sold out, but luckily enough, as we were told, a new updated edition in going out, soon, which are very good news indeed.
As we have seen in our page: Thai Beliefs, Thailand is a predominantly Therevada Buddhist country, where Thais devoutly follow the Buddha’s teachings. Although blended with traces of animism , Buddhism has deeps roots in and guides daily Thai life and thus, being inseparable from its culture.
As a result, all major festivals are essentially Buddhist in nature, commemorating important events in the life of the Buddha. In Thailand, three major Buddhist celebrations which are observed as national public holidays: Makha Bucha, Visakha Bucha and Asalaha Bucha.
The religious festivals provide a time when people all over the country flock to the temples and pay their respect to the Buddha and his teachings. here, we would like to note that although each of the three occasions named above commemorates a different event, the ceremonies and rituals that take place at the temple in each occasion, are very similar.
These days are of great importance, as they symbolise what is known as triratna or “Triple Gem”: the Buddha, his teachings or the Dharma and the monkhood, or the Sangha. So, Makha Bucha, is celebrated on the full moon of third lunar month, usually February, praises the Dharma, Visaka Bucha on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, usually May, pay homage to the Buddha, and Asalaha Bucha on the full moon of the eight lunar month, usually July, honours the Sangha.
As an expression of the triratna, many rituals in the temple are performed in threes: devotees bow in obeisance three times before the image of the Buddha, they bring three items as offering (a flower, usually a lotus bud, a lighted candle and a burning stick of incense) and with these, they circle the ubosot ( ordination hall) , three times.
If only I’d known…
These three items have a symbolism: the lotus is the symbol of impermanence, pure and beautiful , but subject to decay. Also represents enlightenment because its grown is compared to human struggle and achievement…trapped in mud, goes up through the water to reach the light of sun as do men until reaching the light of enlightenment .
The light of the candle symbolises the light of wisdom and the heady smell of incense represents the sweetness of enlightenment.
In a country that has been primarily agricultural for centuries, the forces of nature are of greatest importance. Although sunshine and rain are abundant in Thailand, divine forces are still today consulted annually to ensure a good crop, particularly of rice, the staple food, and then, they are thanked , according to the result of the harvests.
To be sure of plentiful rain, especially in the dry north-eastern region of Thailand, curious methods are applied, rooted in animism, myths and ancient practices, to placate the spirits and ask their help in creating favourable conditions for the coming harvest. These ceremonies are held during the months of May and June , just before the start of the rainy season.
Not all of these ceremonies are national public holidays, and are celebrated in different regions of the country, so saving two or three days out of your calendar, to witness these festivals, is an opportunity that we shouldn’t leave pass . We are not listing all of them, but the ones more traditional that you will hear of : The Royal Ploughing Ceremony, The Rocket Festival, The Ghost Festival.
Traditional Cultural Festivals
Although most festivals in Thailand were originated in India, they have become part of the Thai cultural heritage, and among them, several are ways used by the Tai for asking favours to be bestowed upon them. Among these, we can name : the Songkran rites that express the people’s desire to secure a good year for themselves; while the Loy Krathong festivities honour all source of water, asking for forgiveness for polluting them.
Festivals in which physically demanding activities take place, have become part of the Thai calendar. Originally used in warfare, Boat racing, Kite flying and elephant training, as the Elephant Round Up, have become sporting events, requiring great skill and accuracy. These events are performed in impressive teamwork, when men attune their strength to act as one, or while a different kind of teamwork is display by the elephants and their trainers.
Royal anniversaries observed in Thailand as national holidays are linked to the Chakry dynasty. Since its foundation in 1782 with the city of Bangkok as capital of the kingdom, the dynasty has provided the country with remarkable kings, each leaving a legacy of his own time.
The Royal Festivals included in the Thai calendar are : Chakry Day observing the foundation of Chakry dynasty, Chulalongkorn Day, remembering King Chulalogkorn, Rama V’s, passing, the birthday of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej The great , considered National Father’s day, the Birthday of Queen Sirikit, the Queen of Rama IX, considered National Mother’s Day. After King Adulyadej Bhumibol passed away in October,13th , 2016 two Royal commemoration dates were added to the Thai holiday calendar: King Vajiralongkorn’s – Rama X- birthday and October 13th, remembering the late King Aduljadej Bhumibol’s, passing.
Thai Public Holidays, Festivals and Observances
We have listed in chronological order the national public holidays, festivals and observances celebrated by the Thai people. We also have included a short description of the main public holidays and festivals, as they are celebrated by the majority of the Thais.You will find that there are more festivals than the ones we listed, which are regional festivals also marked by parades and public celebrations, but we decided to include in this page the most traditional ones.
A note here: For any information about public holidays and festivals celebrated in Pattaya city , visit our page: Thai Festivals and Events in Pattaya
Calendar of Thai Holidays, Festivals and Observances
We have organized the list of celebrations month by month, noting which of them are national public holidays, regional public holidays, bank holidays or just national observances considered by particulars sector as holidays, so you can easily check at the time of planning a trip , or, if you decide so, just go to witness and may be, to participate in any of them, which would be really a rich experience, worth trying.
When we mention Observances, we mean that we have included the most common national and regional Observances, as National Children Day, Teacher’s Day, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day and Christmas Eve.
Before going into the calendar, we would like to make some clarifications, that may be of great help:
If only I’d known…
- All national public holidays in Thailand are regulated by the government, and most are observed by both the public and private sectors. There are usually sixteen national public holidays in a year, but more might be declared by the cabinet on annual basis, so it is important to check the public holidays calendar which is published at the beginning of every year.
- National Observances are regulated by the government, but are not observed as a public holidays. Annual observances vary, and some might be observed by specific sectors, as National Children Day and Teacher’s Day, which is known as Wai Kru. So it is important to check the public holidays calendar which is published at the beginning of every year.
- There are other observances, both official and non- official, local and international, that are observed to varying degrees throughout the country, as Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day and Christmas Day.
- We should be aware that while all national public holidays are observed by government agencies, holidays observed by financial institutions are regulated by the Bank of Thailand and they might differ slightly from those observed by the government .
- So, we see that banks do not observe the Royal Ploughing Ceremony Day or the beginning of the Buddhist Lent ( Khao Phansa), but instead, do observe May 1st as National labour Day and July 1st as the middle bank holiday. Also, Chinese New Year are designated as holidays for financial institutions in Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Satun provinces.
- Therefore, it would be wise to check in advance visiting the Bank of Thailand website: www.banking-holidays.com/thailand/bank-of-thailand-holidays
- Private business are required by the Labour Protection Act to observe at least 13 holidays per year, including May 1st ( National Labour Day), but may choose the other 12 observances they follow.
- If a holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday is observed by the government as compensation day.
- The majority of festivals and holidays, are based on the lunar calendar with December being the first month of the Lunar year. Having as a result, that as several festivals and religious holidays coincide with the full moon of Lunar calendar, the date might change every year.
- Election days are also considered national public holidays.
- On election days, religious and royal holidays , the sale of alcohol is banned, and entertainment venues may be closed.
New Year’s Day–January 1st
National public holiday. The traditional Thai New Year is celebrated in April (Songkran Festival), however, as Thailand has adopted the Gregorian Calendar, to be attuned with the Western world, the official year changes on January 1st.
Note that Thai people count the years from Buddha’s birth, 543 years BCE (before Christian Era), but they also use the western calendar. So the year 2016, per example, is more commonly referred to as year 2559 (2016 plus 543).
New Year is celebrated all over Thailand with grand fanfare and a stunning number of fireworks on New Year’s Eve. If you are in Bangkok, the countdown usually takes place at the World Trade Center (Chidlom BTS station). But if you are at home, here in Pattaya, the countdown organised by Pattaya Municipality Hall is held at Bai Hai pier.
Children’s Day–the second Saturday of January
Children’s Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of January. It is an observance widely celebrated, especially by governmental agencies, with many activities held for children, and parents take their children out, so you will see amusement parks very busy on the day, as well as shopping malls.
Wai Kru Day or Teachers’ Day – January 16th
This day honours teachers countrywide, and all pupils pay respect to their teachers during a especial ceremony at their school, as teachers in Thailand are still very respected by students and parents alike. Schools may observe this day as holiday, especially those under the authority of the Office of the Basic Education Commission.
Valentine’s Day–February 14
In a country where public displays of affection are frowned upon and young people are very shy about them, Valentine’s Day, adopted from the Western world, offers an opportunity to send a love card or ask someone out to dinner. It’s the most romantic day of the year!
Chinese New Year – First day of lunar calendar, usually falls in February
This is observed as public holiday only in: Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Satun provinces, where there is an important Chinese community. One of the biggest influences that Thailand has received along its history is Chinese given by a large number of people, descendants of merchants from China, who settled in the country after trading with the kingdom over several centuries.
These early settlers brought with them many beliefs, ceremonies and influences from their home country such as ancestral worship and the lunar calendar. One of the main celebrations is, the Chinese New Year, ardently celebrated by all Chinese communities all through Thailand… If you are in Bangkok, dress in red and join the celebrations in Chinatown!
Kite Flying – from February to April
Thailand’s tradition of kite flying dates back to the thirteenth century, to the kingdom of Sukhothai where, kites were used as recreation, ceremonies and warfare.
The flying of kites appealed to the kings of the Chakri dynasty who promoted the activity and it was king Chulalongkorn, Rama V, who introduced kite fighting as a team sport, and so was that kiting became an national sport with defined rules.
To these days, annual contests take place between February and April, the official Kite Season, when strong winds blow off the gulf of Thailand, and every open area becomes the site for flying kites. Great excitement is generated at these matches, with elated winers and disappointed losers.
But not all is competition. During the kite-fly season, you will see groups of young Thais or whole families enjoying an outdoor weekend while the youngest flying or just learning to fly their own colourful kites. It is very easy to get tempted to buy one and I give a try …
An Interesting story:
We would like to share with you some pictures which are part of an interesting story of the Kite -flying season in Bangkok, that we found reading the Bangkok Post newspaper.
” The winds have come and Sanan Luang is the place to be, so tell the kids to put away their computers, tablets and mobile phones and let them have some real fun…
You can read the full story here visiting this website: www.bangkokpost.com/lifestyle/social-and-lifestyle/524843/come-fly-with-us
Makha Bucha Day – Full moon of 3rd lunar month, late February or early March
National public holiday. Makha Bucha Day commemorates the day when 1,250 disciples gathered spontaneously to listen the Buddha giving a sermon with some of his most important teachings. It is observed on the full moon of the third lunar month, generally late February or early March.
In this day Thai people usually go to the temple from early morning, participate in ceremonies, and in the evening all worshipers join in the Wien Thien, devotional circumambulation of the ubosot, walking around its exterior three times, clockwise, always keeping the temple on their right. ( Circumambulating clock wise indicates the cycle of life, while walking in a counter-clockwise indicates the cycle of death, a ritual performed at funerals).
At all religious festivals, lighting the first candle at the temple is a great honour, a privilege usually reserved for the chief abbot, a member of the royal family or an important member of the community. This candle, known as “father candle” serves to light the candles of worshippers.
Through the haze of smoke and faintly glowing candles, a continuos stream of people circle the building, paying their respects to the Buddha. If you are interested in witnessing this event, you could go to the closest temple , you won’t be disappointed , and sure enough it will an occasion to learn more about Thai Beliefs.
Chakri Day – April 6
National public holiday. Chakri Day commemorates the founding of the Chakri dynasty, on April, 6th 1782 which has continuously been honoured by paying respect to all its kings.
Chakri Day ceremonies are led by the king accompanied by the royal family, palace dignitaries and government officials. Respects are paid to the Buddha, the Chakry dynasty, and its founder, in that order. The king and his retinue first visit the the Emerald Buddha, the palladium of Chakri dynasty, in the Chapel Royal of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew.
Next, the king pays tribute to the former Chakri kings whose statues are enshrined in the Prasat Phra Thepbidorn , the Royal Pantheon, located next to the Chapel Royal . This celestial hall used to be opened in the past only on Chakri Day, but now is opened on other dynastic occasions. The ceremony in the Royal Pantheon is semi private. The king, accompanied by royal and official personages, pays respects to his ancestors by lighting candles.
This ceremony, depicts abstract respect to the concept of kingship and not to one particular king. After the royal ceremony ends, the Royal Pantheon remains open for the public to get access, being this one of the rare time that that happens.
The third ceremony of the day takes the king and his entourage to the foot of the Memorial bridge where a bronze statue of Rama I, founder of the Chakri dynasty, sits on an elevated throne overlooking the city. The public has the opportunity to share this act of respect to the greatly admired monarch by placing floral wreaths at the base of his statue.
Thus ends the ceremonies dedicated to the great Chakri dynasty which has kept the country at peace, more than 200 years after its founding.
If you are interested in reading about the Chakri dynasty and Chakri Kings , see our page about Thai Monarchy
Songkran Festival- 13 th to 15th April
National public holiday and is the Thai New year. Songkran is the focal holiday of Thai culture, marking the change of seasons from arid heat to humid rains. The customary three days of celebrations embrace the rites of sprinkling water as acts of purification, family gatherings honouring the elderly , Buddhist rituals and the now very popular water-splashing revelry.
The name Songkran is derived from ancient Sanskrit literally describing the sun’s monthly movement within the zodiac. This festival was most probably introduced into Thailand from India, where the festival of Holi is still celebrated.
Originally a lunar holiday, Songkran has become a fixed date on the Thai calendar, observed from 13th to 15th of April, to suit modern life. Although parts of Thailand celebrate Songkran up to one week or more, Pattaya being a clear example of it, most regions observe the traditional three days.
Tradition dictates that on the eve of Songkran, the last day of the old year, every house is thoroughly cleaned and all old refuse is burnt so as not to carry back luck or anything harmful into the new year. Another old tradition is that firecrackers should be setting off to frighten away any bad spirits that may lurk about from the old year.
Early in the morning of Songkran day, the first day of the new year, people pay respects to the monks by bringing offerings of food prepared the previous day, being this a customarily temple ritual which allows the public to make merits.
In early afternoon, the Buddha images are taken out the temples for ritual bathing, and are sprinkled with lustral water by devotees. The act of purification is also performed on images in private home shrines, on family elders, on especially revered monks and village seniors who are father figures to their communities.
Songkran is a time for family gatherings, when young members, coming back home from all over the country bringing gifts, to visit their elders, pour scented water over the palms of their hands, and receive blessings in return. This gentle water sprinkling done within families escalated into public splashing by the bucketful, when nobody is spared.Young people, and not so young , have a great time lying in ambush with buckets of water, huge water guns and hoses to get everyone soaking wet.
Songkran is also a time for religious and social functions. Festivals are celebrated with great enthusiasm, including parades, carnivals and beauty contests while music blares and great quantity of food and liquor are consumed.
A tradition practised on the second day of Songkran is the building of sand chedi , which are decorated with colourful flags and flowers. Although predominately a northern custom, the sand chedi building has became a popular way of devotion in several regions of Thailand.
Labour Day – May 1
National public holiday in Thailand, and coincides with International Workers Day, celebrated in many other countries worldwide.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony Day – date determined by court astrologers
National public holiday only for Government and Public Sector, so have this in mind if you have to go to any public office.
Rack Na, or the Ploughing Ceremony, literally means “the first ploughing”. It marks the start of the rice- planting season when farmers from all over the country converge into Bangkok to witness the rites. Falling on the six lunar month ( May), the exact date varies annually, determined by court astrologers who select an auspicious day for the ceremony.
In the past, the Ploughing Ceremony was conducted by a Brahmin priest only. During the reign of Rama IV ( 1850-67), this changed when King Mongut added religious rites to the ceremony. Following the tradition of sowing the first rice in a royal field, the ceremony is held at Sanam Luang ( Royal Ground) which is located directly outside the Grand Place. It is not a short and quick ceremony, as lasts two full days, the first dedicated to prayers and blessings, the second devoted to the actual ploughing.
The Ploughing Ceremony is a ritual through which are predicted the forthcoming rice harvest, important issues as if there will enough rains or if it will be a generous year, or if the crops will suffer drought, floods or pests. This ceremony has been held in answer to all these questions since the Sukhothai period ( 1257-1350) and kept, with some differences, as one of the traditional ceremonies which is attended by the king or a member of the royal family. The ceremony itself is conducted by the Lord of the ceremony.
Preparations for the Ploughing Ceremony involve a great number of details which are carried our carefully.The spacious Royal Ground is transformed into a multi- pavilion shrine. In the afternoon of the first day monks place a Buddha image in one of the erected pavilions while Brahmin priests carry images of the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu placing them in another pavilion, all in readiness for the second and main day of the ceremony.
It is also on the first day that the king appoints the Lord of the Ceremony. This position is usually held by the Minister of Agriculture. This “temporary king” receives an item of the royal regalia, usually a ring, that empowers him for the duration of the ceremony. In older days, the sword of state was presented, bestowing on the king’s representative a greater power than he is given today.
An important ritual on the eve of the ploughing ceremony is the blessing of the sacred rice that will be used the next day.This Buddhist rite is performed by high-ranking monks at a Buddha image in the posture “Calling Down the Rain”, in the chapel Royal, Wat Phra Kaew ( Temple of the Emerald Buddha). The king, or the member of the royal family representing the monarch, presides over the religious ceremonies and pours lustral water over the rice seeds, the sacred plough, the Lord of the Ceremony and over the nang thepi , the young women who, representing heavenly beings, will carry the blessed rice seeds the following day.
The second day of the ceremony is the one awaited by everyone. It is a colourful event where ceremonial drum bearers wearing elaborated red garments walk in procession, followed by the Brahmin priests , the Lord of the Ceremony in a white gem-studded tonic, the young maidens dressed in traditional Thai attire and two white oxen harnessed to a crimson plough with gold fittings, the “protagonists” of the ceremony.
All the rites that follow are the great importance as they foretell the conditions of the elements to be expected in the coming year. So, first comes the first ritual that is the prediction of rainfall: The Lord of the Ceremony is offered three folded pieces of phanumg, the loincloth traditionally wore by Thai men, which are of different length, and his choice will be indicative of the amount of the coming rains so necessary for rice cultivation.
So, the choice of a long loincloth is a sign of drought, a short phanumg , which is worn above the knee, will assure a good supply of rain, perhaps a little bit too much, leaving the third option, a medium-length cloth as showing an average rainfall, the most favourable omen of the three.
Next, is the rite of the ploughing the field. The entire procession enters an area delimited by bamboo fences decorated by flowers and leaves. It is lead by the Lord of Ceremony and the team of white oxen attached to the plough, followed by senior Brahmin priests with the four maidens just behind them, carrying gold and silver baskets,on a pole over their shoulders, filled with the blessed seeds. Drum an umbrella bearers complete the procession.
The lord of ceremony leads the sacred oxen nine times around the marked field . In the first three rounds the earth is ploughed in three deep furrows.Then, he scatters the sacred rice seeds into each furrow, completing the symbolic ploughing by walking around the furrows three more times as the seeds are covered up. The Brahmin priests sprinkle lustral water, chant prayers and blow conch sells as each round is completed.
Then comes the test for the success of the next harvest. As the oxen halt, they are offered seven bowls holding rice, corn, beans, sesame seeds, grass, water and wine. The crowd awaits nervously the choice of the oxen, and with it, the fate of the coming harvest. Any one of the grains, but preferable rice, will assure an abundant yield, while a choice of water is a prediction of heavy rains and floods, and wine is totally inauspicious.
At the end of the ritual comes the time for the farmers to get what they were waiting for: the barriers are removed and they rush to pick up the sacred seeds of rice…the more they get, the better, because they will take them back to their farms and mix with their own rice seeds , hoping for an exceptional harvest…
An Interesting Note:
We would like to share with you images of the Royal Ploughing Ceremony , held on May 12th, 2017 which were published on the Bangkok Post and by REUTER . If you are interested in reading the full articles, please, visit these websites:
Bangkok Post website: www.bangkokpost.com
Reuters website: www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-ploughingceremony-idUSKBN18809J
Rocket Festival – weekend that falls in the middle of May
The Bun Bang Fai, or the Rocket Festival, takes place in the Isan , northeast Thailand. The origin of the festival lies in the custom of firing rockets into the sky at the start of the rice-growing season to remind the sky god to send the promised rain. Nowadays, the festival takes the form of a competition to see whose rocket will stay aloft for the longest time. It is held annually over the weekend that falls in the middle of May.
This lively celebration is a typical northeastern village festival. It is a two-days affair with serves as a social purpose besides begging for rain…and as the need for rain is strong, so , the festivities are reckless. Once again, old folk practices, are intertwined with Buddhism, where acts of merits are followed by carousing, dancing, and of course, the launching of the sky-rockets.
Because the festival attempt is to bring the so much need rain, the rockets must be very powerful. Every village produces its own rockets under the guidance of Buddhist monks, who held the secret formula for the explosives that propel the rockets.
The best known Rocket Festival is the colourful festival held in the town of Yasothorn, where large rockets are lavishly decorated, some are truly works of art. Many villages join he exciting competition hoping for their rocket to soar highest, thus assuring plenty rain and good fortune for their village. The rockets are classified by their size, which could vary between 2 to 9 meters, and amount of explosive that each can hold, which varies between 4 and 20 kilograms of gunpowder…
It is considered auspicious whether rains comes following the first day’s prayers, and the second day’s rocket launching. Like most Thai festivals, there are contests for the best dance group where the female dancers led by vigorous male drummers dance along with competitive processions of floats and as in Yasothorn, the rockets are parade in the streets . Many are magnificent contraptions shaped like nagas with their heads rearing, symbolising the much need water.
The rockets are launched from tall trees with bamboo scaffolding or just metal stands situated, for safety, in the middle of a field. The first rocket will be launched which must shoot up straight, and predictions are made with regard to the next season’s rains and harvest.
Then, the rocket competition starts , where the one lasting longer being the winner. Losers do not get away easily as their failure to win deprives their village of good fortune. They are , therefore thrown in the mud..a fate believed to be deserved.
This is what traditions dictate, but what is also true, is that nowadays, everyone is thrown into the mud, so if you are in Isan in these days, join the fun..but be advised that you might, eventually, be catch in a “mud war”, so, be prepared, wear appropriate cloths for that …
The Ghost festival – Late May or early June, the date selected by the town mediums
This unique festival takes place at the beginning of the rainy season, late may or early June, at the village of Dan Sai, in Loei province, Isan. Unlike other northeastern festivals which take place in several locations, the Ghost festival can be seen only in Dan Sai.
Several weeks after the Rocket Festival , the most unusual of all festivals take place. Although its main aim is to bring rain and ensure fertility of the earth, this event is also a coming of age rite, with ghosts portrayed by boys and young men.
The name Phi Ta Khon translates as ” masked ghosts” , but the festival re-enacts a scene from one of the last ten jatakas (stories about the Buddha’s former lives) and in the process blending Buddhism and Animism. In this case, it refers to the favourite jakata among Thais, the return of Prince Vessantara to his city after years of exile when the entire population went to meet him…even the ghosts could not resist joining the celebration. The result is a most and lively celebration. You will find more information about the Jakatas, visiting our page : Thai Beliefs
There are important figures in the village and in the Ghost Festival: the Chao Pho Kuan , the village male medium who communicates the wishes of the village’s spirit to the villagers, including the date of the festival, the Cho Mae Nag Tiem, the female medium who assists with the ceremonies, the head of the ceremony, the Phra Uppakut and four monks who give a buddhist touch to the whole affair. Male helpers and followers, known as saen, assist the Chao Pho Khan thought the festival.
The festival rituals begin before dawn of the first day when the village medium and the saen go to the Mun River to collect smooth and perfect white pebbles from the river bed taking them to Wat Son Chai, the temple of the village, and place them on the four pedestal shrines situated at the four directions of the wind.
From the temple the procession moves to the Chao Pho Kuan’s home for the traditional northeastern ceremony of bai si, the tying of blessed white cords around the writs. In most bai si ceremonies, each person receives a blessed cord on his writs, but in this occasion, the participants tie the blessed strings on the outstretched arms of the Chao Pho Khan. Prayers and food follow, as “ghosts” start to gather for the main procession of the festival.
The procession comprises of humans and …ghosts and spirits. It begins with several competing groups of dancers and drummers beautifully attired in various northeastern styles. They are followed by the boisterous and jovial “ghosts” that increase in number as the precision gets under way.
To add drama to the occasion, “forest dwellers”, covered by leaves to indicate their habitat, join the procession. Also, paraded in the procession are enormous papier mâché figures representing fertility: several couples with the male with a string-operated phallus, along with buffaloes pulling a plough showing that the earth is ready for tilling. Then, a weird and petrifying sight is that of the “mud people” whose spectral appearance resemble risen corpses, affirm the joy shared by everyone at Prince Vessantara’s return. This is , after all, a spirit festival, so every form of ghoul is welcome…
Although every “ghost” adds a personal touch to its attire, is seems to be basic details common to all. The mask, the main item of the costume, is made from the base of a coconut stalk, the eyes are cut out and a stiff elephant trunk fashioned from thin wood is added as nose. Then, the entire surface of the mask is artistically decorated, a task that takes weeks. The mask is topped by a large lavishly decorated tiara-like device made from local baskets used for sticky rice. The ‘ghost” carry gourds, the symbol of the much desired water, and buffalo bells are tied to the lower part of their backs jingling loudly to accentuate their frightening appearance.
The second day of the festivities is a day for acquiring merit, so shortly after noon the Chao Pho kuan, Chao Mae Nang Tiem, the Phra Uppakut and the four monks meet at a crossroads at the edge of the village where a Buddhist ceremony takes place. When the praying ends, the festivals reverts to its lively and, it could be said, humorous rituals. The Chao Pho Khan is lifted on a palanquin -like litter, which in fact are the sky rockets that would be fired at the end of the day, and heads the procession toward Wat Son Chai, while tossing to the crowd coins covered in silver and gold paper as the procession moves on.
Once inside the temple compound, the procession rounds the main sanctuary three times in counter-clockwise direction, as in funerals, being this is the only cycle that the “ghosts” can take, because they are not longer considered living among the living.
Next come the firing of the rockets from a tall tree behind the temple. The first sky rocket is launched by the Chao Pho Khan followed by that of the Chao Mae Nang time and all others. As in the Rocket Festival, a rocket that soars high into the sky assures good rainfall and abundant harvest in the coming season. The evening ends in the temple, with the reading of the sermon known as “The great Life”, which recounts the previous human reincarnations of the Buddha as Prince Vessantara.
This is an extremely amazing opportunity to the northeast of Thailand and enjoy the fun of this festival. It is a rare, particular and beautiful colourful demonstration of old traditions that are still very much alive. Check the calendar, save the weekend, and organise a trip to Isan with your family or group of friends.You won’t regret it.
Visakha Bucha – Full moon of sixth lunar month, May or early June
This national public holiday is the most important day on the Buddhist calendar because they are commemorated the three major events in the Buddha’s life: his birth, his attainment of enlightenment and his death or passing into Paranirvana. All three events are observed on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, Visaka, in late may or earlier June.
On Visaka Bucha day people perform meritorious acts by bringing food in the morning to the monks in the temple. As on all Buddhist holidays , the evening rites starts with the reading of a sermon, then monks and worshipers cycle the temple shrine three times clockwise, called wien Thien in Thai, holding lotus buds, candles and incense sticks in their hands and raised in gesture of devotion.
Following the circumambulation people return to the prayer hall, and listen to recitations of the Buddha’s life and teachings, while five monks seated in a row chant the Visaka service, thus concluding the service for this most significant holiday.
For reading the full article published by The Nation and Pattaya Mail, please, visit these websites:
- The Nation website: www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30314842
- Pattaya Mail website: www.pattayamail.com/thailandnews/hm-king-performs-visakha-bucha-ceremony-temple-emerald-buddha-173926
Mid- year Bank Holiday- July 1st
This is a holiday observed by all Finacial institutions in the country.
Asalaha Bucha Day – Full moon of the eight lunar month, late July or early August
As the full moon of the eight lunar month passes through the constellation of Asalaha, from this fact the name of the celebration, two significant Buddhist festivals take place, one following the other: Asalaha Bucha, making the anniversary of the Buddha’s first sermon delivered to his five faithful disciples at the Deer Park in Sarnath near Benares, and Khao Phansa, which marks the start of the Buddhist Lent, both are national public holidays.
On Asalaha Bucha Day, people recall the fundamental teaching of the Buddha listening as monks chant their prayers and repeat the words of that first sermon. As in other Buddhist festivals, they carry lotus buds, lit candles, and incense sticks as they do the ” wien thien”, the triple circumambulation at dusk in a serene candlelight procession honouring the Buddha, his teachings ,the Dharma, and the order of monkhood, the Sangha.
Khao Phansa – First day waning moon eight lunar month, late July or early August
The day of Khao Phansa follows Asalaha Phansa, marking the beginning of Phansa, the Buddhist Lent. In Thai, the name means “to enter the rainy season”, and indeed, Phansa coincides with the rainy season which lasts three months, from July to October. It is a time when all monks are confined to their monasteries and refrain from travelling or leaving the temple for any length of time.
Like most Buddhist traditions, this practice dates from the early days of Buddhism when monks walked in the country side preaching. With few roads to go along, monks had to traverse newly planted paddy fields in the monsoon rains, inadvertently trampling the tender shoots, which goes against Buddhist precepts of not killing alive elements. And then, as a result of walking over mud , their robes became filthy, soaked by rain, and soiled by mud.
Since all monks were allowed to own only one set of robes each, the Buddha, according to popular account, asked the monks to stay in their monasteries during the rainy season to protect the rice shoots. In fact, staying in one place, was a pre- Buddhist habit of the wandering ascetics of India who were unable to travel trough swamps and swollen rivers at that time of the year.
The monks use this period of retreat for studying and teach newly ordained monks who, according to tradition, enter the monkhood shortly before the rainy season. This is a significant period for all Buddhists because it also commemorates the legend of the Buddha’s ascent to Tavatimsa Heaven to preach to his mother who had died when he was only seven years old.
In preparation for this season, public ceremonies for acquiring merits take place. So is time for individuals and groups present to the monks with items they will need during the period of retreat, as candles, food and bathing robes that can only be used once Phansa has began.
Lighting a Phansa candle is considered an especial meritorious art as the candle is supposed to remain lit and to illuminate the temple during the three months of duration of the lent. It is customary to bring a large candle as an offering to the temple, which is an occasion of great festivity. As on other Buddhist holidays, flowers, candles and incense are offered by worshippers at the temple .
In the Grand Palace a special royal ceremony is held, where the king, or a person appointed by him, changes the golden robes of the Emerald Buddha, the most revered image of the kingdom. The Emerald Buddha has three robe changes annually coinciding with the onset of the hot, wet and cool seasons.
Throughout Khao Phansa people continue to bring gifts to the monks , consisting mainly of items as honey, sugar, fruits, and medicine. These gifts are presented with an appropriated prayer. The weeks of Khao Phansa mark a period of prayer and contemplations for monks and laity, and a time when people make resolutions to become a better persons. The period ends on the full moon in October, at the end of the rainy season.
King Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday- 28th July
Celebration of King Vajiralongkorn- Rama X- ‘s birthday.
Queen of Rama IX ‘s Birthday – August 12th
This is a National public holiday commemorating the birthday of the Queen Sirikit, wife of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and mother of the current King Vajiralongkorng, king Rama X. A descendent of the Chakri dynasty herself, widely acclaimed for her beauty, Queen Sirikit’s name has been considered synonym of Thailand for many years.
Born in Thailand on Friday 12 August 1932, the Queen of Rama IX gained much knowledge and experience in her youth , having been educated in Thailand and Europe. She joined her family in England , where his father served as ambassador to the court of St James’s and later, as ambassador to Denmark and France, giving her the opportunity to master several languages.
It was in Europe that she met Prince Bhumibol, her future husband, an event that would change her entire life as a 1949 engagement was followed by a 1950 wedding , the King’s coronation only days later occasion in which Sirikit was elevated to the full rank of Queen.
Queen Sirikit took on her new position with confidence, displaying skills of a caring mother, while instilling a sense of duty for the country on her four children. In recognition of these attributes, 12th August, the day of her birthday , has been observed since 1976 as National Mother’s Day.
The Queen’s concern for the social conditions of the people, particularly the plight of farmers and low-income labourers in rural areas led her to find ways to supplementing their income, so the foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT) was established in 1976. You could find more information visiting our page: Thai Monarchy
In the past only a monarch’s birthday was designated as national public holiday, but this changed when Queen Sirikit became regent during the King’s period of monkhood. Upon his return, King Bhumibol Adulyadej conferred on her the honoured tittle of Somdej Phra Borom Rajini Nath with translates as ” Full Reining Queen”.
For several days the cities of all Thailand are festively decorated with blue flags ,the colour of HM the Queen, because culturally, light blue is the color associated to Friday. In accordance to that, people usually dress in light blue, to show their love and respect for they beloved Queen.
Chulalongkorn Day – October 23rd
National public holiday commemorating the day that King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) passed away, in 1910. A great reformer and modernizer of Siam, he was one of the outstanding monarchs of the Chakri dynasty.
Every year King Chulalongkorn , holder the title “The Great”, bestowed on only few Thai monarchs, is remembered by the entire nation. People from all ways of life gather at the foot of his equestrian statue, located in the Royal Plaza, Dust area in Bangkok, to honour their loved and respected King.
Customs dictate that on the eve of his memorial day, Buddhist services are held near the statue followed by a Brahmin ceremony while that early on Chulalongkorn Day, groups of students, civil workers and many others pay obeisance in front of the king’s statue, bow to him, light candles and incense, and place flowers at its foot .Organisations and prosperous citizens place elaborate floral wreaths on easels, many including Chulalognkorn’s picture in the arrangement.
In the afternoon the monarch pay respects to their great ancestor at the royal Plaza lighting candles and laying floral wreath at his statue before heading to the Amarintra Hall in the grand Palace to pay homage to his ashes and to the Buddha image which were casted during his reign. Please, note here that every Chakri king casts a Buddha image for each year of his reign, but only one image symbolises his reign.
Memorial rites are held accompanied by Buddhist chants, remembering once more King Chulalongkorn the Great, a brilliant man whose reign was a brilliant era in Thailand’s history.
For more information, see our page about Thai Monarchy
Boat Races – Full moon eleventh lunar month, late October
As the monsoon rains stop and Phansa comes to an end, people near rivers engage in the physically demanding recreation of boat racing. This ancient practice take place during the full moon of the eleventh lunar month, usually October and coinciding with the Ohk Phansa celebrations , when the water level is at its highest . Considered a national sport, boat racing events are arranged annually all over Thailand.
An unbroken tradition of boat racing existed for the last 200 years in Nan, close to the Thai-Lao border. Traditionally the races were sponsored by the monasteries in Nan, with the monks rowing the boats giving them , in this way, the much-needed physical outlet after the three months of retreat during the rains. Most races are still sponsored by temples situated by rivers, in a style reminiscent of the past, but the the rowing is done by anyone willing to join.
The race boats are long and can accommodate many rowers, the number depending of their size, being modelled mostly from hollowed-out trees. Decorative motifs include mythological beings, particularly aquatic ones like the naga, to enhance the invincibility of the boat are applied or painted on their surfaces.
These races are fun – filled events for both rowers and spectators where the ultimate purpose is just to race and win the coveted prize of Champion of the River. It is amazing to see the well coordinated teams of skilful rowers propelling the boats with great speed and stamina, racing neck to neck almost to the finish line. At the conclusion of the races prices are present to the winers , which is followed by great festivities.
We would like to share with you a gallery of images of one of these amazing events:
Ohk Phansa – Full moon eleventh lunar month, late October
A special day marks the end of the three- month rainy season. Falling on the full moon of the eleventh lunar month, this occasion is known as Ohk Phansa and litterally means “leaving the period of rains”.
It also signifies that monks are not longer confined to their temple and may travel once again around the countryside. The monks prepare for the day by tidying their robes and shaving their eyebrows and heads, which are done twice a month, one at the time of new moon and again during the full moon.
The legend of Ok Phansa has it that the Lord Buddha after staying in heaven preaching to his mother for three months, he completed his mission and returned to earth. People welcomed his return with great joy and excitement. Even the gods and goddesses joined in the ceremonies welcoming the Buddha.
Descending from heaven on the triple stairways of gold, silver, and precious gems were an assortment of angels, the monks who followed the Buddha to heaven, and the Buddha himself at the center. The people made special offerings of food, flowers, and gifts to celebrate his return.
On Ohk Phansa people gather at the temple for morning prayers, all through the day they honour the chedi and other sacred structures in the temple compound and after dark , place lit candles around the entire temple compound and in front of their houses.
The many flickering lights announce the end of the rainy season retreat , and the beginning of the season for merit-granting ceremonies.
Ceremonies for Acquiring Merit
As monks emerge from their three- months retreat, starting to walk again along the cities’ streets and travel through the country side, devotees offer them food and gifts as a gesture of thanks for perpetuating the Buddhist beliefs during the Phansa period.
Every year from about mid -October to mid-November, Thais people engage in merit-gaining ceremonies, which are observed all over Thailand, and, although similar in nature, might have certain regional variances. Here, we will describe only two: Thot Kathin and the Royal Barge Ceremony.
Thot Kathin – From full moon of eleventh lunar month to full moon of the twelfth lunar month
Acquiring merit by bringing gifts to monks in the temple is an old Buddhist tradition practised throughout the year, but it is more significant when is done in the month following Ohk Phansa. Therefore, the month that goes from the full moon of the eleventh lunar month, that falls in October, to the full lunar moon of the twelfth lunar month, falling in November is called Thot Kathin, which literally means ” laying down robes”, where Thot means means to place down and Khatin referring to the monk’ robes. Of all gifts given to monks, robes are of the greatest importance, lending to the festival its name.
Monk’s robes are pieced together according to a traditional practice, a task that must be completed in a single day, to show that there is not any special effort made to enhance them, indicating also a merely functional use. The saffron colour, believed to desinfect the old clothes, is derived from plants and tree barks, thus, reproducing the variety of shades found in nature, from pale yellow to dark brown, although nowadays the use of chemical dyes has become a common practice .
The origin of this tradition goes back to the old days of the Buddha. The story says that thirty pious monks travelled a long distance to see the Buddha at the end of the rainy season, when the roads were still muddy and wet, ruining their robes that become wet and soiled. The Buddha at receiving them , saw the poor state of their cloths, therefore allowing his disciples to get new ones. This ancient tradition continued until these days.
Ceremonies usually begins with prayers in the temple on the eve of the festival. The following day, in early morning, the procession head to the selected temple, led by music and lively drumming.
The robes, each composed of three pieces, a shoulder shawl, a loin cloth and an outer robe, are brought to the temple and carried around the main sanctuary three times then, the robes along with another items as food, toiletries and simple utensils are presented on elaborate trays to the monks shortly past noon. Sometimes money is offered for the maintenance of the temple, the notes arranged as leaves on a silver- and- gold coloured miner trees.
When Kathin ceremonies are completed in temple, two makara ( crocodrile) flags are placed at the entrance to indicate that it has received the annual Kathin donations, and so, worshippers go to find another temple for acquiring their seasonal merit. Ceremonies for acquiring merit are conducted by groups or by individuals, rich and poor alike, bringing merits to the donors while benefit the temples.
Royal Barge Procession- From full moon of eleventh to full moon of the twelfth lunar month
Tradition dictates that the King, as keeper of the Buddhist faith, is customarily the first to present the robes to the monks. He presides over the Thot Kathin ceremony at a temple of royal rank, travelling there by land or water. The Royal Barge Procession is held when the King travels from the Grand Palace, once the home of royalty, to Wat Arun, or Temple of Dawn, to present a robe to the abbot.
Dating back to the thirteenth century, in the early days of Sukhothai Kingdom, the Royal Barge Procession is a majestic event, of grand vessels and colourfully attired men, and it extends over one kilometre in length, involving fifty one barges and close to 2000 crew members, mostly oarsmen.
The grandest barges in the royal fleet are three and occupy the centre of the procession. The most distinguished, in order of importance, is the Suphanahongs, the golden swan, modelled after the vehicle of the Hindu god Brahma, and it is gilded and mirrored, with stylised wings flowing backwards, depicting the swan flying. This barge carries the King during the Royal Barge Procession. The crystal tassel, ending in cuffed yak’s hair, is suspended from the golden swan’s beack and indicates the King’s presence on the boat.
Second in rank is the Anantanagaraj, the naga- headed regal barge and carries the King’s gift of robes to the monks during the Thot Kathin ceremony. The third principal barge, and the oldest in the present fleet, which has no figurehead, but its prow curves in majestic elegance instead, is the Nekajatphuchong. It was built by the command of King Chulalongkorn, Rama V, and carries princes and other royalty.
The dramatic effects of these magnificent barges are enhanced by the distant sounds of cadence chanting, wailing horns, and muffled drums, sounds that drift ahead of the procession and mesmerise anticipating spectators. It s a magical experience.
The Royal Barge Procession has been a colourful event in Thai culture for several centuries, but it has been restricted in recent years due to the high cost of maintaining the fleet, the great number of people required in the procession, and the length of time needed for the preparations.
If Only I’d known…
- If you are lucky enough to be in Bangkok when a Royal Barge Procession is held or already living in Pattaya, do not think twice. Go.
- An excellent idea would be to book in one of the hotels that are at the bank of the Chao Phraya River, because these are privileged positions to enjoy this spectacle, but you must book your room early, very early as soon as you get notice of the event.
- Other way would be , going towards the bank of the Chao Phraya very, very early trying to find a good spot from which you would be able to see the Royal Barge Procession , but think that thousands are thinking the same thing…
An Interesting Note:
Now, we would like to share with you a story and pictures of the Royal Barge Procession held in opportunity of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’ s birthday on December 5th , 2012, that we found reading the Bangkok Post :
…” Camera shutters clicked like a gigantic swarm of crickets, tourists gaped in awe and thousands of Thais turned out once again to honour the majestic spectacle of the royal barge procession along the Chao Phraya River yesterday. Every available vantage point was packed as the elegant ceremony displayed the country’s strong cultural and emotional attachment to the royal institution…
You could read the full story visiting: Bangkok Post website: www.bangkokpost.com/learning/learning-news/320526/royal-barge-procession
Loy Krathong – Full moon of twelfth lunar month , late November
Loy Krathong , is celebrated all throughout Thailand, but it is not observed as a public holiday. One month after the end of Phansa, on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, usually November, people in Thailand head to rivers, ponds, canals, and here in Pattaya, to the sea, to float their krathongs.
A krattong is a floating offering traditionally made of banana leaves to form a cup-like receptacle in the shape of a lotus flower. Loy means “to float” hence the name of this widely popular and impressive festival, Loy Krathong , or “to float one’s offering”.
The story says that these offerings, set afloat upon the water, are sent to Mae Klongkha, the goddess of waters, to appease and ask her forgiveness for polluting the water throughout the year. The ancient people of India already recognised the value of the water, therefore, worshipped the goddess of Ganges as the giver of life, a concept that reached Sukhothai kingdom about 700 years ago, where the name Ganges was pronounced as Klongkla…since then, the name of the festival.
As we have seen, most of the Thai holidays and festivals evolved from ancient legends, Loy Krathon is not an exception. It is said that this ceremony of offering has its origin in the reign of a great Sukhothai ruler, believed to be King Ramkhamhaeng. It began when a young maiden by the name of Nang Nopamas wished to honour the water spirits during the festivities which marked the end of the rainy season.
Daughter of a Brahmin priest at the King’s court, Nang Nopamas followed her father’s tradition by making a delicate float to offer to Mae Khongkha. It was Nang Nopamas the first to craft a float in the shape of an open lotus flowering who, as an act of respect, offered the krathong to the King, who accepted and floated it down on the river. This attractive way of offering appealed greatly to the people of Sukhothai, who started to repeat it annually and progressively, became integrated into Thai culture until these days.
The legendary Nang Nopamas is represented each year by a beautiful young woman, selected to reign over the festivities. Traditional krathongs are still made in the shape of a lotus flower, made of banana leaves and decorated with flowers, lit candles and incense sticks and occasionally a coin is included as a symbolic offering to the water spirits.
Although the spirit and meaning of the Loy Krathong festival is asking forgiveness to the water goddess for polluting the waters, ironically, in recent times, artificial materials replaced the natural elements utilised for making the traditional kratons . In this sad , but economically convenient way, spastic and styrofoam took over the slices of banana trees.
Very soon an undesirable and negative environmental impact started to be seen when klongs , canals and rivers started to be polluted with all these non biodegradable materials, to the point of provoking the death of great number of fish after eating them. A second but not lesser negative effect is the potential blocking of pipes and conduits in the cities due to the huge number of kratongs that are left adrift on canals, and rives that cross them.
So, during the last years, based on environmentally concerns, the use of natural and biodegradable materials, as bread which could be eaten by fish, has been strongly encouraged. Although the situation is getting better, it is far form being resolved, and, very year, the following day of Loy Krathong is still a nightmare for city officials who have to deal with the cleaning of all sources of water to avoid being clogged.
As we have seen not a few times , when talking about Thai beliefs and traditions, the origins of Loy Krathong are intertwined with ancient beliefs: basically, as in the case in Nang Nopamas’ legend, it is an animistic celebration to honour the water spirits; yet, it relates to the Chinese River Festival when candles are lit on floats to guide home the spirits of the drowned and also coincides with India’s Diwali Festival, when thousands of sparkling lights commemorate Rama and Sita’s return to Ayodhya, without forgetting its strong Buddhist connotations, relating to a specific episode of the Buddha’s life.
It was said that while the Buddha was meditating, before attaining enlightenment , he wouldn’t eat , and in one occasion, he was offered a meal inside a golden bowl which he cast upstream, against the strong current. It drifted until ultimately sank and landed on the naga king, who recognise the bowl as that of a future Buddha, and rising from the waters he begged Sidharta Gautama to press his foot on the sand leaving his print there forever.
Consequently, when people set their floats upon the water, their paying tribute to the Buddha, in which the candle venerates the Buddha with its light, while the floating of the krathong symbolises letting go of one’s hatred, anger and defilements.
And what is a feature common to many cultures, people believe that with proper prayers and offerings they can rid themselves of their sins. So it is very common to see that before launching the krathong on the water, people pray or make a wish .
Loy Krathong is one of, if not the most beautiful festival that you can see while living in Thailand. And it is a celebration which you can participate in. Just look for a source of water, canal, river, or if you are already living in Pattaya, one of the reservoirs or just the sea, wait for midnight , and put you krathong to float under the light of the big moon…
We would like to share with you images of this particular , charming festival:
The Elephant Round Up – Third weekend of November
In South -East Asia, and Thailand isn’t an exception, elephants are treated with high regard due to the fact that for centuries nations depended of these sturdy animals for transportation, work and warfare, so, regular hunts were held to capture them. In Thailand, most of the round ups took place in the northeast where lush jungles once grew, with occasional excursions into Cambodia.
But then, with the imposition of strict borders , shrinking jungles and the decreasing number of elephants in the kingdom, hunts no longer take place. Therefore, in order to avoid forgetting the importance of the elephant in Thai culture and history, but also to generate funds for the hunters who have lost their source of income, an elephant round up is held every year as an entertainment in the city of Surin, northeast Thailand, which has become the centre of this exciting activity that it is now a fixed event in the Thai calendar.
The Surin Elephant Round Up began as a modest event that grew into a fair with a grand show involving more than hundred elephants, from different areas of Thailand allowing the animals and their mahouts to display their skills and discipline.
For those who are new in Thailand, a mahout is the elephant’s keeper and trainer who takes care of the animal since the moment of its capture, or birth, what generates a special relationship and strong bond between trainer and elephant. Therefore, the Annual Round Up is the opportunity that the mahout has to proudly exhibit his elephant, both participating in various shows and competitions.
This is another opportunity that you have not only for knowing more about Thai culture and traditions, but , also for enjoying a weekend among these sturdy but lovely animals. So, check the calendar and save the third weekend for getting to Surin, in the northeast of the country. You will not be disappointed.
The Elephant Round Up, which lasts a weekend, starts on Saturday with the feeding ceremony and then, on Sunday the main show, when you will see: the ceremony of blessing the lasso used in elephants’ hunts followed by an elephant parade, a simulated hunt, a demonstration of skill in timber work and the re-enacment of an ancient battle where two full armies headed by each king make their entrance and then, among canon fires, smoke and other effects, the two kings charge one against the other deciding the fate of their own army , followed by a soccer match between two elephants team which starts when a extra large ball is kicked around and chased all over the field until one or both teams score.
The Elephant Round Up ends in a grand procession transporting royalty with great fanfare. Because all animals participate of this part of the event ,one comes to the realisation of the incredible number of elephants that have participated of the whole spectacle. Hundreds. Just extraordinary.
After the ceremony, the mahouts rode their elephants all the way back into to the city, creating an unusual spectacle of elephant traffic jams, and it is then when the public is able to be close to the elephants to feed them, with the baby elephants robing the moment, always under the vigilant look of their mahouts, and their proud mothers. Hundreds of pictures are taken. The festivities continue throughout the weekend.
This is an exceptional event that we should make sure to see at least, once.
We have prepared some images that we hope would able to transmit what this spectacle is about. Enjoy the show…
National Father’s Day- late King Adulyadej Bhumibol ‘s Birthday – December 5th
This is a national public holiday that celebrates the birthday of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, “the beloved King and father of all Thai people.” It is also National Father’s Day.
During King Bhumibol’s reign, all Thailand dressed in yellow on this special day, as the King was born on a Monday, the day of the week with which yellow is associated.
Constitution Day – December 10th
This date is observed as a national public holiday and commemorates the first constitution of Thailand which came into effect in 1932. It marks the transformation of Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.
For more information, see our page about Thai Monarchy
Christmas Day – December 25th
Christmas is a Christian tradition and doesn’t belong to Thai culture. But Thai people love to offer gifts to each other and Christmas, like elsewhere, has also become a commercial and marketing event. Not surprisingly, extraordinarily huge, glamorous Christmas trees can be found in Bangkok’s shopping centers.
New Years’ Eve – December 31st
All over Thailand New Year’s eve is celebrated with great fanfare and fireworks. But if you are already living in Pattaya, the main celebrations organised by the Municipality Hall are held at Bali Hai pier where an incredible number of fire works and lanterns lit Pattaya’s sky . Amazing. Unforgettable . Imperdible.
We have included below a table with all national public holiday, festivals and observances, that we hope, will help to have an idea of what to expect , in order to plan our short holidays, during the year with just a quick look.
|January 1st||New Year||National public holiday|
|January , 2nd Saturday||Children’s Day||National observance, might be public holidays for schools|
|January 16th||Teacher’s Day||National observance, might be public holidays for schools|
|February, 14th||Valentine’s Day||Observance|
|Mid February- First Day lunar calendar||Chinese New Year||Observance. Regional public holiday : only in Narathiwat, Pattani,Sala and Satun provinces|
|February-April||Kite- Flying Season||Old tradition|
|Full moon 3rd month Thai lunar calendar( February or March)||Makha Bucha Day||National public holiday|
|April, 6th||Chakri Day||National public holiday|
|April 13th-15th||Songkran Festival||National public holiday|
|May, 1st||Labour Day||National public holiday|
|May, date defined by royal astrologers||Royal Ploughing Ceremony Day||Government and Public Sector holiday|
|Mid May, weekend||Rocket Festival||Regional festival|
|Late May, early June, date defined by village’s medium||Ghost Festival||Regional Festival|
|Full moon Sixth moon month, late May, early June||Visakha Bucha Day||National public holiday|
|July, 1st||Bank Mid-year holiday||Holiday observed by all Financial institutions|
|Full moon eight lunar month, late July or early August||Asalaha Bucha Day||National public holiday|
|First day waning moon, eight lunar month, late July or early August||Khao Phansa||National Observance|
|July, 28th||King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday||National public holiday|
|August, 12th||Queen Sirikit’s birthday- Mother’s Day||National public holiday|
|October, 13th||the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Day||National public holiday|
|October, 23rd||King Chulalongkorn ‘s Day||National public holiday|
|Full moon eleventh lunar month, late October||Boat races||Sporting Festival- Old tradition|
|Full moon eleventh lunar month, late October||Okh Phansa||National Observance|
|From full moon eleventh lunar month to twelfth lunar month||Thot Kratin||National Observance|
|From full moon eleventh lunar month to twelfth lunar month- Date to be fixed||Royal Barge Procession||Royal festival|
|Full moon twelfth lunar month, late November||Loi Krathong||National Observance.It might be observed as holiday for some sectors|
|Third weekend november||Elephant Round Up||Regional festival|
|December,5th||Father’s Day- King Bhumibol birthday||National public holiday|
|December, 10th||Constitution Day||National public holiday|
|December, 25th||Christmas Day||Observance|
As we have said, the content of this page is the result of our research, plus some comments of our own. We gathered and put together interesting information that we considered it would be of help and which we had found while reading the book listed below. So, you could find all this information and much more, reading :
Traditional Festivals in Thailand by Ruth Gerson. Although this edition is sold out, fortunately, we were told that a new updated edition in doing out, soon. These are very good news indeed.
We just hope that you had enjoyed reading this page, and that we had been of help. If you have some comment, please, lets know. In this way, we could keep linking Pattaya together.