Festivals and Holidays

Thai Public Holidays

festivals and holidays

When planning your trip, you should be aware of Thai public holidays, as local businesses and government offices are closed. Many Thais travel during this time, so book early to avoid disappointment. If the public holidays fall on a weekend, the holiday may be carried over to the Friday or Monday. In major tourist destinations like Phuket and Samui, shops and tourist attractions remain open.

Many of the important holidays are based on the lunar calendar and therefore will be on different days from year to year. The dates provided here, may be subject to change.

  • 1 January: Thais celebrate the start of the Western New Year (one of three, celebrated by Thais)
  • 15 January: Chinese New Year, many Chinese Thai businesses will close, however it is not a Thai public holiday
  • 28 February: Makha Bucha Day, to celebrate the Buddha's first sermon in to his disciples
  • 6 April: Chakri Day, to commemorate the founding of the current dynasty, Rama I
  • 13-15 April: Songkran Water Festival, the traditional Thai New Year
  • 1 May: International Labour Day
  • 5 May: Coronation Day, to celebrate the crowning of His Majesty the King in 1949
  • 26 May: Visakha Bucha Day, to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and entry into nirvana of the Lord Buddha
  • 26 July: Buddhist Lent, to mark the beginning of Buddhist lent, when monks retreat to their temple
  • 12 August: Her Majesty the Queen's birthday and Mothers Day
  • 23 October: Chulalongkorn Day, anniversary of King Chulalongkorn's death
  • 2 November: Loy Krathong A visually stunning celebration whereby Thais pay respects to the Water Goddess by floating candlelit offerings on rivers and lakes. This isn't a public holiday, but an important celebration for Thai people.
  • 5 December: His Majesty the King's birthday and Fathers Day
  • 10 December: Constitution Day, Thailand was granted its first constitution in 1932
  • 31 December: New Year's Eve

Sat Duan Sip Festival

This festival, which translates to "Festival of the Tenth Lunar Month" is celebrated to honor one's ancestors. The festival takes place on 14th - 15th day of the waning moon in the tenth lunar month, when it is believed that ancestor spirits are allowed to visit the earth. Families prepare elaborate offering baskets full of delicious offerings to their deceased relatives. The baskets are then taken to the monastery in colorful and joyous processions.

Ramadan

The start of Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Muslim calendar, is traditionally determined by the sighting of a new moon. Ramadan will start August 11 in 2010, and about 10 days earlier each year thereafter. The word Ramadan comes from an Arabic word for intense heat and lack of food and drink. Many Muslims will fast and refrain from certain activities (such as smoking) during daylight hours.

Fasting is considered one of the Five Pillars (fundamental religious duties) of Islam. It commemorates the time when the Qu'ran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims will rise early before sunrise to eat a pre-fast meal (suhoor). Once the sun has set, they will eat an evening meal (iftar).

Ramadan ends when the first crescent of the new moon is sighted again, marking the start of a new month. Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan when the fast is broken, usually as a whole family or community.

Vegetarian Festival

The 10-day vegetarian festival is celebrated by Thai-Chinese across the country but mainly down South, especially in Phuket, where the festival originated. During late September to October, people will observe a vegetarian or vegan diet for the purpose of spiritual cleansing and merit making. Participants in the festival will wear white and perform sacred rituals and make offerings at Chinese temples and shrines.

Devotees will enter a trancelike state allowing them to walk over hot coals, climb ladders with bladed rungs and even mutilate their bodies by piecing blades and knives through their cheeks. Some of these devotees, known as "Ma Song" or "entranced horses," are processed by Gods and mutilate their bodies in order to bring good luck to their community.

The festival is believed to have started in Kathu district of Phuket, where there was a high population of Chinese tin miners and operatic performers. One year, an epidemic plagued the island during the ninth lunar month, killing many people, including some of the performers.

Those performers blamed the epidemic on their failure to pay homage to the Nine Emperor Gods, Kiu Ong Lah, so the following year they paid homage to the Gods and adopted a vegetarian diet. The epidemic was avoided and the festival has been celebrated ever since.

Another highlight (if you can call self mutilation a highlight) of the festival is the food. Many vendors and restaurants will substitute meat for tofu and soya products, and indicate that they are participating in the festival by decorating their stall with yellow flags with red Chinese-style writing on them.

You can watch the festival in many Chinese temples along the North Andaman, including Ranong, Kuraburi and Takua Pa.