Holidays in Thailand
Thailand has many festivals, mainly related to Buddhism and the monarchy. Nobody celebrates them all except the banks, which often seem to be closed.
- Chinese New Year (ตรุษจีน). Chinese New Year 2014 is 31 January and marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse. It is also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year and the celebrations can last for about 15 days. The Thai Chinese, who are numerous in Bangkok, celebrate it by cleaning their houses and offering food to their ancestors. Above all, it is a time of lavish festivities. Visit Bangkok’s Chinatown or Yaowarat to enjoy the festivities.
- Makha Bucha (มาฆบูชา). Makha Bucha falls on the full moon of the third lunar month, which usually falls in February or March, and commemorates the spontaneous gathering of 1,250 people before the Buddha that led to their ordination and subsequent enlightenment. In temples in Bangkok and throughout Thailand, Buddhists carry candles and walk clockwise three times around the main shrine.
- Songkran (สงกรานต์). The most fun festival is undoubtedly the Thai New Year, which takes place in April (officially from 13 to 15 April, but the date varies from place to place). What started as a polite ritual to wash away the sins of the past year has turned into the biggest water fight in the world, lasting three full days. Water guns and super soakers are recommended and available everywhere. The best places to join in are Chiang Mai, Bangkok’s Khao San Road district and resorts such as Pattaya, Ko Samui and Phuket. Be aware that you will get very wet, this is not a spectator sport. In recent years, the water spray has become increasingly unpleasant as people have started to hose themselves down with ice water. It is advisable to wear dark clothing as light colours can become translucent when wet.
- Coronation Day. 5 May commemorates the coronation of the current king in 1950 (although his reign actually began on 9 June 1946 – making him not only the oldest monarch in Thai history, but also the oldest sitting head of state in the world).
- Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง). It falls on the first full moon day of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, usually in November, when people go to rivers, lakes and even hotel pools to float banana flowers and leaves (or, these days, Styrofoam) laden with candles called Krathong (กระทง). The Krathong is an offering to thank the river goddess who gives life to people. Thai people also believe it is a good time to cast your bad luck and many place a few strands of hair or nail clippings in the Krathong. According to tradition, if you make a wish, it will come true when you put down your Krathong and it will float out of sight before the candle goes out. Some provinces have their own version of Loy Krathong, such as Sukhothai, where a show is held. In the north, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai have their own tradition of throwing com or hot air lanterns. This spectacle can be breathtaking as the sky is suddenly filled with lights that rival the full moon.
- King’s Birthday (Father’s Day). 5 December, the King’s birthday, is the country’s bank holidays and is also celebrated as Father’s Day, when Thais pay homage and show their love to His Majesty the King. Buildings and houses are decorated with the King’s flag (yellow with his insignia in the middle) and his portrait. Government buildings, but also commercial buildings are decorated with lights. Especially in Old Bangkok (Rattanakosin), around the Royal Palace, you will see magnificent light shows on trees, buildings and streets. The Queen’s birthday (12 August) is Mother‘s Day and is celebrated in the same way, but with a little less pomp.