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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 2009 A.D. is recognised as 2552 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.

left: Loy Krathong    cente: Traditional dress   right: Lent Day in Thailand

New Year's Day * Wan Khun Pee Mai 1st January
Mahayana Buddist New Year
Although Thailand follows the Theravada tradition, many people also celebrate the Mahayana New Year
first full moon in January
(8th January 2012)
Thai Children Day   2nd Saturday in January
(14th January 2012)
Teachers 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   (23rd January 2012)
Last day of Chinese New Year Also known as Yuan Xiao Day 15th day of the Chinese
New Year
(6th February 2012)
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
(7th March 2012)
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
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
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 Labour Day * Bank Holiday only 1st May
Coronation Day *
Celebrates the coronation of the reigning king, Bhumibol Adulyadej on 5th May 1950
5th May
Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Day *
Government only 2nd week of May
(9th May 2012)
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
(4th June 2012)
Tuen Ng day Dragon boat festival

Chinese tradition. People celebrate by eating rice dumplings and having a dragon boat competition.
(23rd June 2012)
Mid-year day * Holiday only observed by the Banks 1st July
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
(2nd August 2012)
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.
(3rd August 2012)
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
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.
(30th September 2012)
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.
(30th October 2012)
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.
(29th/30th October 2012)
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.
(15th - 23rd Oct. 2012)
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
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.
(28th November 2012)
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
Constitution Day * Commemorates the change to constitutional monarchy in 1932. 10th December
Winter Solstice
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 2012)
Christmas Day  
25th December
New Year's Eve *  
31st December

* denotes Public and/or Bank Holidays

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