Festivals & Major Events
Festivals & Major Events
It’s not only the day Gautama Buddha was born though, but it includes his whole life; his birth, enlightenment and death.
Also known as Vesak, Buddha’s birthday is celebrated in various days, depending on the calendar used by a particular country. In Thailand, where Buddhism is the major form of religion, Buddha’s birthday frequently falls on a May except in the leap year where it falls on June.
Approximately 95% of Thailand’s population is Buddhist of Therevada School of the Southern Buddhism, similar to that of Sri Lanka. It is estimated that the religion reached Thailand during the 3rd Century B.C., the same time when Emperor Asoka of Japan propagated its beliefs. The rest of the 5% in Thai population are mostly Muslims and Christians.
Buddha is considered as a great philosopher and teacher. His teachings widely spread Asia, particularly India and South Asia. Buddhism is not focused on gods and goddesses as most religions do; rather, it is focused on man and his life. Life, according to Buddha, is pain and suffering caused by craving and worldly desires. He said that agony will only end once desire ceases, until one achieves nirvana or the enlightenment.
Buddhism, because of its existence in the country for centuries, is deeply rooted in Thailand’s culture. From religion to customs and even to architecture, Buddhism is very dominant in the Thai nation. Like other Buddhist countries, the religion is represented by monks (some in yellow robes) who serve as the officiator on various ceremonies and occasions.
Vesak is the holiest day of Thai Buddhism. The monks and nuns all over the Kingdom of Thailand will chant rituals and the ancient rules of their orders. Some lay people, offer flowers and various offerings on the temples where they can also meditate and listen to monks’ discussions. There will usually be candlelight processions at night as part of their religious practices.
Celebrations in temples are a solemn and contemplating day, while other places celebrate it the modern way’ there are festivals, parades and parties like other Thai holidays. Streets will be covered with garlands and lanterns, including Buddha’s images.
In Wat Yai Chaimongkon, just outside the old city of Ayutthaya, celebration will start in the morning. Images surrounding the courtyard will be wrapped in new golden robes, including the large central tower or cedhi. Thousands of people usually visit the temple and go around it three times to give gratitude.
The Chinese New Year:
or “Trut Chin” in Thai, is a day of thanksgiving and a time for family reunion. It started when the Chinese migrated in the Ayuttaha period in 1350 to 1767 A.D. It is an important day for the Thais and can be compared to the Christian celebration of Christmas.
The occasion is one of the most exciting events in Thailand. It is celebrated on the first day of the Chinese lunar month, usually February, just like the other Chinese-influenced countries. It is believed to be the start of spring, when the weather is excellent, when it is best to grow crops. Trut Chin is the time to pay honor and worship to the gods and ancestors for the good crops and harvests.
Dragons, which are believed to be divine and mythical creatures by the Chinese, represent good fortune and prosperity while lions are the symbol of courage and solidity.
Although the event is observed nationwide, the celebration in the Nakhon Sawan province is the biggest because it lasts for 11 grand days. Usually there are stunning acrobatic performances like pole climbing and trapeze. Food and other incredible Thai and Chinese delicacies are also an attraction in the festival.
Father’s Day (wan Chalerm):
Is celebrated every second week of June in most countries, Father’s Day in Thailand just like Mother’s Day, is observed during the birthday of their monarch, King Rama IX or Wan Chalem; on the 5th December
Born Bhumibol Adulyadej, His Majesty became the King of Thailand on June 9, 1946 after the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol. He is now the longest serving monarch in the world, born in 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He later on finished his studies in Switzerland and formally crowned as king May 5, 1950.
However, in 1948, the King met an accident. He hit the back of a truck that cost him his right eyesight. But from this accident he met and won his Queen—the daughter of Thai ambassador to France at that time—and helped him to recover from the misfortune.
His Majesty King has a very crucial role in Thai politics, especially Thailand’s transition to democracy in the 1990’s. He is loved and honored by many Thais because of his immersion with Thais’ poorest communities back when he was younger. He is considered as ‘inviolable’ and deemed as ‘almost divine’.
His Majesty King’s birthday celebration is a three-in-one festivity: his birthday, Thailand’s national day and Father’s day. December 5 is considered as the biggest event of the year where people break from their everyday routines and celebrate the day of the King, the heart and soul of Thailand.
Buildings and houses all over the country are decorated with flags, photographs of His Majesty and other embellishments—mostly color yellow—the color of the King. The center of the celebration is in the Royal residence, around the Grand Palace and the Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok.
The preparation for the holiday starts weeks before the day itself. Thousands of golden marigolds and colorful lights beautify the streets. There will be parades and exhibits around the capital city, Bangkok, in honor of His Majesty King’s life.
December 5 is also a bank holiday, all banks and establishments are closed to give way to the celebration. Some main streets to the Palace, like the Ratchadamnoen and Sanam Luang, are also closed because of the people celebrating and also the traffic. The main party commences at night where a big picture of His Majesty King will be paraded along the venue as scenic firework displays light up the sky with people rejoicing for the day of their King.
The delightful Loy Krathong Festival, celebrated nation-wide on the full moon night in November. The float or krathong is made of banana-leaf and is filled with incense sticks, flowers, a lighted candle and small coins, once completed and the candles and incense are alight it is floated into the sea or on the river, while the sky is awash with hot air lanterns, it is then when Thai people will as ask for good luck in the future and forgiveness Pra Mae Khongkha.
The original festival was thought to be it used for worshipping the foot-print of Buddha at Nammathanati River beach in Thakkhinabodh district, India.
Mother’s day (Wan Mae):
In Thailand is not celebrated during May as in many other countries but it is celebrated every 12th of August to mark the birthday of the queen, Her Majesty Queen Sikrit, Queen Regent of Thailand.
Born Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara in 1932, Her Majesty Queen has been revered by the Thais through her enduring charity work since the 1950’s. Being a Queen, she also promoted acceptance and tolerance to the local Muslim minorities in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, the southernmost provinces of Thailand. She is also adored for her humanitarian efforts in the tsunami disaster in 2004, making her very popular among the masses. Her Majesty Queen is venerated in the country’s provinces not only because of her compassion and goodwill, but they also deemed the monarchy as semi-divine, because of this love for the royal highness, Thais made her birthday a national holiday where people celebrate Her Majesty Queen Sirikit as a mother of the people of Thailand, and at the same time, pay tribute and honour to everybody’s own mothers. The event is also known as “Wan Mae” or literally Mother’s day. Preparations start weeks before August 12. Houses will be decorated with the portrait of Her Majesty Queen, while people and various organizations will raise national flags at their homes and offices all over the Kingdom of Thailand. Lanterns, garlands, and colourful lights brighten up the streets her array of portraits is displayed.
Mother’s day in Thailand is also a time for family reunions and gatherings. The day usually will start with children giving alms to the monks. They will go to their mothers afterwards (even grandmothers and aunts); offering them a garland of flowers with a letter telling how important they are in their lives. Typically, a child will kneel in front of the mother, kissing the back of their hands while on top of their mother’s feet or what Thais called as “krub”.
A spectrum of activities is also lined up throughout the day. In Bangkok, parades are all around the city. Fireworks displays add up to the beauty of the festivity, along with the rich and vibrant colors of street lights. The heart of the celebration is near the Grand Palace in Sanam Luang, north of the Royal Residence.
Hotels and airlines are fully booked at this time of the year, just like the other national holidays. Tourists from around the world flock to Thailand to witness the grand celebration of Her Majesty Queen’s birthday and how Thais celebrate their “Wan Mae”. So if you want to see how festive Thailand is every Mother’s Day, better book early to avoid the hassle of last minute decisions.
Literally meaning “astrological passage”, Songkran is celebrated every April 12 to 15. Though January 1 is the start of Thailand’s New Year, the festival is commemorated as a tradition and a national holiday in the country. It is observed nationwide even in the southernmost part of Thailand, but the heart of the celebration is in the northern city of Chiang Mai and Pattaya where it is observed for more than 6 days.
Throwing of water is the most amusing activity in the Songkran Festival. People will stroll through the streets with water guns or water container, while others will use fire trucks and hose pipes to ensure everyone gets wet, people will also mix water with mentholated talc or chalk and cover passersby, (because monks use it to mark blessing). It is a fun-filled crazy activity for all ages.
Songkran is also a time for reunions as most people come home to visit their families, especially to pay respect to the elders. Since it is also celebrated as a Buddhist festival, most people also visit a wat or a temple to pray and give food to the monks. Some Buddha shrines and images will also be cleansed gently with water mixed with Thai fragrance and herbs as it is believed that it will prosperity and good luck for the New Year.
According to religious traditions and beliefs, the water used to cleanse Buddha images is best to throw at people as a sign of respect because it is already blessed water. Elders believe that when the holy water will bring good fortune and wash all the bad luck when gently poured to the shoulders of the family members.
A definitely one-of-a-kind celebration in the country and something not to miss.
Trat Fruit Fare:
The Trat Fruit Fair is usually held every May 13 to 15th in front of the City Hall. Colorful parades and displays embellished with fruits march throughout the city with floats and other wonderful decorations. A range of contests are held, too. From beautiful dogs and fruits and vegetables contests, games and all kinds of crop shows are all over the city
Trat Independence Day:
is celebrated every March 23 to 27. Every year, historical plays and exhibits are performed; they feature the colorful history of the Trat Province.
Although Thailand has never been colonized by any empire the Trat province was occupied by the French in 1868, in March 23, 1906, King Rama granted the areas and islands of Pratabong, Sri Sophon and Siamrat (which are located to the right bank of the Mekong River and now Cambodian territories) to the French forces in exchange of Trat.
Because of this, the Trat Independence Day is celebrated annually to commemorate the freedom of the province from the colonizers. It is also called as “Wan Trat Ramruk” or “Trat’s Day of Remembrance”. The locals even built a monument for King Rama V in the City Hall to remember his efforts to keep Trat with Thailand.
However, tensions between the Thais and French still continued until 1941 when a French ship invaded Thai territories but was successfully blocked by their Navy. The two forces clashed, later known as the “Battle at Koh Chang Island”. The battle lasted for almost five hours and while the Thai Navy suffered from complete devastation they were still able to ensure the French retreated and therefore Trat is still part of Thailand, the losses suffered by the Thai Royal Navy is still remembered today through its annual commemoration of Yutthanavi Day
It is believed that the name “Trat” came from the word “Krat”, an abundant tree in the province used to create brooms. During the reign of King Naresuan in the Ayuttahaya period it was called ‘Bann Bang Pra’. The province is also known for its beautiful and finest gemstones like sapphires and rubies.
Also known as Koh Chang Yutthanavi Day, people of Trat celebrates the courage of their heroes through different exhibitions, merit-making, chanting rituals, and tribute rites.