Right at the center of the Indochinese Peninsula is the beautiful country of Thailand. Did you know that in the Thai language, the word “Thailand” means “Land of the Free”? This mirrors Thailand’s freedom from all European nations. This is unlike some of its surrounding Asian countries like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam. Also, Buddhism plays a huge role in Thai society, as nearly 90 percent of the Thai people are Buddhist. Therefore, many observed holidays in Thailand include Buddhism and revolved around this religion’s culture. So come along with me and find out how the most important holidays in Thailand are observed!
The Top 15 Holidays in Thailand
And right dab in the middle of the Indochinese Peninsula lies Thailand’s largest capital city of Bangkok. This city is nicknamed the “City of Immortals” and is the top tourist destination in all of Southeast Asia. They have more than 11 million visitors per year! Along with other countries, public holidays in Thailand are celebrated throughout the year with everything from water fights to prayers, to honoring their king.
How Buddhism Effects Thailand
As I mentioned before, this is especially true since it is a nation that is deeply rooted in Buddhism. The government allows for many Buddhism holidays in Thailand to be public holidays. And since this nation still has a monarchy, many of these Thailand public holidays pertain to significant events related to the royal family. These holidays in Thailand not only influence their belief systems but also pertain to their way of life and the Thai culture.
Holidays in Thailand in order of occurrence:
#1 New Year’s Day – Jan 1
An estimate of 12,000 people visits Thailand during the New Year, and there is a good reason – as Bangkok becomes party central for the night! And whether you want to countdown on a cruise down the Chao Phraya River or from a packed live music festival, this city has a New Year’s party for practically everyone! Heck, you could even party with an international crowd with free-flowing drinks or sweat it out in a youth hostel over on Khaosan Road.
This holiday in Thailand is a bit odd. As one thing that the Thai people like to do on this day is to climb Doi Inthanon National Park, the highest mountain in Thailand. But for those of us who do not wish to exhaust our limbs during this public holiday, you can choose to spend the day at home and do nothing. Most Thai people believe that you shouldn’t do any housework or use sharp objects on this day to assure good fortune for the rest of the year.
#2 Chinese New Year – Feb 12
The beginning of a new Chinese Zodiac year is when the Chinese New Year begins, which is a Thai holiday. Unlike other public holidays, the Chinese New Year does not have a specific date each year, but it usually falls between January and February. Although this day is not considered a public holiday in Thailand, it is popularly celebrated in Chinatown.
In fact, Yaowara, Bangkok’s Chinatown district, closes to traffic and becomes decorated with Chinese red lanterns. The Chinese celebrate with the lion dance, dragon dances, and even firecrackers. You can celebrate on the streets with delicious foods, as this celebration last for three days and is often attended by the Royal family.
If you are visiting Thailand during this Thai holiday, I suggest you wear lots of red, which is the color associated with this holiday—and the Chinese lanterns.
#3 Makha Bucha (Magha Puja) Day – Feb 26
As mentioned before, Buddhism plays a big role in the lives of people in Thailand. Fortunately, the Thai government allows for Buddhist religious holidays to be Thai holidays too! One of these is Makha Bucha Day. It is held in the 3rd lunar month of the year. Buddhists believe that this day signifies the day that the great Buddha delivered his important teachings. It is common for people to refrain from drinking alcohol, meditation, or give food to monks during this day. This holiday in Thailand is special and very important to the monks in the country.
#4 Chakri Day – April 6
This special day is celebrated by Thai people all around the world because it celebrates the founding of the Chakri Dynasty. In 1782, Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, aka King Rama I, declared Bangkok as the capital city of Thailand and established the Chakri Dynasty. The Royal Family has great pleasure and pride when celebrating this holiday in Thailand, especially during their visits to religious ceremonies at the Royal Pantheon.
Traditional Holidays in Thailand:
#5 Songkran Day and Festival – April 13-15
This Thai holiday signifies a new solar year. The first day of this holiday begins with a huge water fight, which is the Thai way to get rid of any bad luck and to start anew. The 14th of April is a day dedicated to spending time with family and loved ones. They pay gratitude to their Thai elders and visit temples for prayer and offerings. Songkran literally means “to pass or move into”. The 15th and final day of this holiday are when people visit Buddhist monasteries to ask for forgiveness.
#6 Coronation of King Vajiralongkorn – May 4
This is another of the Buddhist holidays in Thailand. The Buddhists celebrate the 10th King of the Chakri dynasty. It is King Vajuralongkorn, aka Rama X who became King in 2016 after the death of his father. In 2019, the coronation of Rama X took place with all the royal rituals of a Buddhist event.
#7 Visakha Bucha Day – May 6
Yet another holiday in Thailand, this holiday in Thailand is one of the most important holidays in the Buddhist religion. That is because it combines three important events of Buddha that occurred on the same day but in different years: The Birth of Buddha, the Enlightenment of Buddha, and lastly the death of Buddha. All three events occurred on a full moon of the sixth lunar month!
The people of Thailand use this day to visit local temples, giving donations, listen to sermons, meditating, and try to eliminate all the negative karma from their life.
#8 Royal Ploughing Ceremony – May 11
So for this Thai holiday, it starts with the beginning of the rice-growing season with an annual ceremony called the Ploughing Festival, aka Raek Na Khwan. This festival is observed in many Southeast Asian countries and dates back to 1238 in Thailand. The festival starts with the current King predicting the amount of rainfall to bless the rice season, which takes place near the Grand Palace. After the King’s prediction, rice is scattered all over the land. This is a perfect ending to this holiday in Thailand, as the Thai people enjoy the scattering of rice for a prosperous year.
#9 End of Ramadan – May 24
This is not a Thailand public holiday, but the government allows Muslims to celebrate. And although less than 5% of the Thai population is Muslim, each year this Thai holiday of Eid Al Fitr is celebrated (but not in all parts of Thailand). On the first day following the fasting and prayer month of Ramadan is when Eid al Fitr occurs. The significant parts of this holiday in Thailand include prayer sessions, sermons, and big parties.
#10 Asanha Bucha and Khao Phansa – July 4 & 6
For this holiday in Thailand, it includes two celebrations: Asanha Bucha and Khao Phansa,
Asanha Bucha is a day to commemorate the first speech of Buddha that included the four truths of the Dhamma wheel: Truth of Leiden, Truth of the Cause, Truth of End of Suffering, and Truth of Way. This is the day when the very first Buddhist monk was ordained at Benares in India over 2500 years ago! The next day is the beginning of Vassa or Buddhist Lent and the rainy season retreat of the monks begins.
Khao Phansa Day is the Buddhist holiday observed in Thailand on the first day following the full moon occurring in the eighth month of the Thai lunar calendar. This occurs the day after Asanha Bucha. Another name for Khao Phansa Day is called “the Rains Retreat” because it occurs at the beginning of the rainy season in Thailand.
At this time, the monks retreat inside their temples for a three-month period to study and meditate. The Buddhist monks fast from things like alcohol, meat, and tobacco and stay in the monasteries or temples until the rainy season ends on Wan Ok Phansa Day. During this holiday in Thailand, the monks wear orange robes. because the orange robe is a symbol of the flame and of the sun. It can always be seen in the depth of darkness.
Both of these holidays in Thailand are public and deemed very important. In fact, the Thai government has allowed these days as public holidays in Thailand. This is so that Thai people may participate in religious traditions at the local temples. These two holidays are close to the heart of the Thai people.
#11 Vegetarian Festival – October 17 to 25th
Now, this is a fun holiday in Thailand! It is a meat-free holiday that was first observed in China and then was brought to Thailand by the Chinese. It is also known as the “Nine Emperor Gods Festival.” It lasts nine-days and occurs on the eve of the 9th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
Most of the Thai food served over the nine-days is vegan, which obviously does not include any milk or eggs. The largest Thai Vegetarian Festivals occur in Bangkok and Phuket.
#12 Chulalongkorn Day – October 23rd
This holiday in Thailand was created to celebrate the life of King Chulalongkorn. He ruled for 42 years in Thailand. The premature death of this king, aka Rama V, occurred in 1910 at the age of 57. King Chulalongkorn was praised for his amazing achievements such as the abolition of slavery, modernization of social and political structures, and the adaptation of the Gregorian calendar. In Bangkok, memorials have been set up for the King so that the Thai people can make offerings to him.
#13 Loy Krathong Day or Festival – November 1
Loy Krathong is the festival of the floating lantern and is best celebrated in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Sukhothai. This public holiday was created to give thanks to the Goddess of the rain. During this festival, baskets in the shape of the lotus flower are released into the local rivers. The Thai people release these baskets with a piece of hair inside the basket. Or they worship the Buddha’s hair pagoda in heaven by releasing floating lanterns. This represents them letting go of negative thoughts and mistakes.
#14 King’s Day & Constitution Day – Dec 5 & 10
This Thailand public holiday is often linked to the late King’s birthday on December 5th. Thailand also celebrates the first permanent constitution in Thailand that was recreated on December 10th, 1932. Each year the Thai people commemorate the re-modified monarch and the new constitution. The Thai people usually take a long recess from work to celebrate both of these holidays in Thailand.
It is interesting to note that the King’s birthday is going to be celebrated on December 11th this year to make it a 4-day long weekend combining it with Constitution day for merrymakers!
#15 Christmas Day-Dec 25
Although Christmas is considered a holiday to the world, it is not a public holiday in Thailand. This means businesses are open and it is a normal day. Christmas is more for the tourists who visit, as Thai people do not put-up Christmas trees or decorations.
Royal Holidays of the Monarch
As mentioned before, Thailand is a monarch. The monarchy of Thailand refers to the monarch of the Kingdom of Thailand which was formerly Siam. Thais have had in the past the utmost respect for their monarchy. They especially loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. With his recent passing in 2016, grief was widespread across the country. At that time, the country declared an official state of mourning for an entire year. However, since his son King Vajiralongkorn (officially known as King Rama X) has taken over, he no longer appears to enjoy such respect. He has chosen to rule by intimidation, and there have been protests in different areas of Thailand. Apparently, King Vajiralongkorn is ruling from Germany, where he prefers to live.
Here is a list of Monarch Holidays:
April 6: Chakri Day, which is the founding of the Thailand Dynasty
May 4: Coronation of King Vajiralongkorn who became the 10th ruler of the Monarch.
July 28: King Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday commemorates the birthday of the King of Thailand, Vajiralongkorn, who was born on this day in 1952.
August 12: Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s Birthday to commemorate the birthday of Queen Sirikit, the Mother of all Thai people.
Oct 13: Passing of His Majesty the Late King in remembrance of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as King Rama IX.
Oct 23: King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day or known in Thai as “Wan Piyamaharaj Day“. It is the memorial day of the passing away of King Chulalongkorn, (known as King Rama V.)
Dec 5: His Majesty the Late King’s Birthday to pay respects to and honor the His Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej.
Famous Attractions in Bangkok
Whenever you are in Bangkok, especially on a Thailand public holiday, I highly recommend visiting the Chatuchak weekend market. This market is the world’s largest market. It sells everything from knick-knacks, to food, to clothing, to antiques – believe me, they have it all! And I can tell you from experience there is one thing that the Thai people love to do. And that is to celebrate its national and public holidays. Also, if you get a chance, visit one of the most famous attractions in Bangkok, which is the solid gold Buddha statue located in Chinatown.
You can find out about the most important holidays in Thailand by reading this article!
Are there any more important holidays in Thailand you’d like to share with us? Feel free to leave a comment below!