Bangkok Holidays

  • Posted onFebruary 16th, 2014

Bangkok festivalAnyone who has ever worked in Thailand will tell you of the many national holidays over the year. It’s great if you are working here as there always seems to be a day off on the horizon, but with so many it can be hard to keep up with the names and reasons behind them!

Thais love to celebrate, and while Bangkok also enjoys traditional western holidays, such as Christmas, New Years, and the Chinese New Year, for the sake of this blog I’m going focus on the Thai national holidays, and there are plenty of them; and this is not including the numerous ‘observed’ holidays which are not considered bank holidays.

Magha Puja – Known locally as Wan Makha Bucha – takes place on the 3rd Thai lunar month (February)

Magha Puja is the first of 3 annual lunar holidays, and it celebrates two important Buddhist events. The first was the moment during Buddha’s teachings when 1,250 monks spontaneously gathered from far and wide to meet and be ordained by Buddha. The second event was 45 years later, and Buddha’s final sermon before he died. Both events are said to have taken place on the full moon day of the 3rd lunar month.

Chakri Memorial Day – Locally: Wan Chakkri – 6th April

This day commemorates two important events in the history of Thailand and Bangkok. These events are the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty, and the founding of Bangkok as the nation’s capital, which until 1767 (and the invasion of the Burmese), was Ayutthaya.

SongkranSongkran / Thai New Year – locally: Wan Songkran – 13th to 15th April

Songkran is a holiday and festival which is impossible to miss. The biggest annual holiday in Bangkok, Songkran is a time when many Thais head back to their villages to see their families (and many Bangkokians working outside of the city return home). It is best known as being a water festival, with whole cities heading out on to the streets to drench each other in (often freezing cold) water for 3 days straight (and for even longer in some cities).

Coronation Day – Locally: Wan Chattra Mongkhon – 5th May

This day commemorates the Coronation of King Bhumibol in 1950 (the current king of Thailand and the World’s longest reigning Monarch and Head of State). The Thai population love their king and take great pride in their monarchy, and many celebrate accordingly.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony and Farmer’s Day – Wan Phuetcha Mongkhon – May (arbitrary date)

This is a holiday and ceremony which gives blessings to Thailand’s many farmers. The date is determined astrologically each year, and announced by the Royal household.

buddhist festivalVesak – Locally: Wan Wisakha Bucha – Full moon, 6th Thai lunar month (May)

The most important of the Buddhist lunar holidays, Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. It falls on the full moon Uposatha day, which is usually during the 6th lunar month. On this day Buddhists visit their local temple to ‘wien tien’ (this is to circle around the main temple building 3 times with a candle, lotus flower and incense sticks).

Asalha Puja – Locally: Wan Asanha Bucha – Full moon, 8th Thai lunar month (July)

Another important annual Buddhist Lunar Holidays, Asalha Puja commemorates the day the Buddhist Triple Gem (Buddha, his disciples, and his teachings) came into existence. The date is believed to be the day Buddha gave his first sermon in Varanasi, and there founded the Buddhist monkhood, Sangha. As with Vesak, many Buddhists will visit their local temple in the evening to ‘wien tien’.

The beginning of Vassa – Locally: Wan Khao Phansa – First waning moon, 8th Thai lunar month (July)

This is the start of Buddhist Lent (Khao Phansa). Though it is not a Public Holiday, it officially marks the start of the rains retreat, when monks stay in their temples and monasteries. Buddhist Lent goes on for 3 lunar months, from July to October.

LanternsHM the Queen’s Birthday – Locally: (Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Somdet Phra Nang Chao Phra Boromma Rachini Nat) – 12th August

This holiday celebrates the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, who will be 81 this year (2014). Married to King for 64 years, she is the World’s longest serving consort to a reigning monarch. The day also serves to celebrate Mother’s Day in Thailand.

Chulalongkorn Day – Locally: Wan Piya Maharat – 23rd October

This day commemorates the death of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V). A much loved King, many Thais gather at the Equestrian Statue at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, to lay wreaths and to pay homage. King Chulalongkorn’s reign is seen as one of the most important and successful in Thai history.

loy kratongLoy Kratong- Wan Loi Krathong – Full moon, 12th Thai lunar month (November)a

Though an observance day rather than a holiday, Loy Kratong is one worthy of mention.  Most Westerners liken this to Valentines day, due to the romance of the occasion. ‘Loy’ means to float and ‘krartong’ is a basket made of banana leaves, decorated with flowers, a candle, and incense sticks. During this day Thai’s (often with their partner) will gather at rivers, canals, and the sea to cast off their kratongs.  This act is believed to bring you good luck, and one may ask for forgiveness from the Goddess of Water, for misuse of water over the past year

HM the King’s Birthday – Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Phra Bat Somdet Phra Chao Yu Hua – 5th December

As with coronation day, the Thai’s show their love for his Majesty the King (who will be celebrating his 87th birthday in 2014). This is often a very colorful day, with many Thai’s decorating their homes and buildings to show their affection, and many cities, towns  and villages will set off fireworks to mark the occassion.

Constitution Day – Locally: Wan Rattha Thammanun – 10th December

The final holiday of the year, Constitution Day commemorates the establishment of Thailand’s first permanent constitution, in 1932, and the switch to a constitutional monarchy.

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