Festivals in Thailand

Thailand has a full calendar of festivals throughout the year. Here you will find information and a description of the events with links to their websites where available...

Many of the festivals in Thailand have a religious aspect. Some festivals take place on fixed days from year to year while others, for example those relating to Buddhism, are determined by the lunar calendar. Below is an introduction to the most significant festivals and happenings.

Buddhist Religious Festivals

Visakha Bucha: Celebrating the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Gautama Buddha, this is probably the holiest day of the Buddhist calendar. It takes place during the fifteenth day of the sixth lunar month (May). During the evening there is a candlelit procession around the temples.

Asalha Puja: Commemorating Buddha's first sermon, the day is celebrated by listening to sermons and giving donations. This festival takes place on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month.

Khao Phansa (Vassa): This festival is sometimes called the Rains Retreat and is the beginning of Buddhist Lent. It starts the day after Asalha Puja. Young men will often become lay monks for a short period in order to earn merit. This period is followed by two of the major festivals in the Buddhist calendar: Wan Awk Pansa and Kathina.

Wan Awk Pansa: The last day of Buddhist Lent. Boats traditionally made of banana wood or bamboo are decorated with flowers and lamps and filled with offerings such as sticky rice sweets wrapped in banana leaves. In the evening they are launched into the water.

Kathina: A festival for lay people to express gratitude to Buddhist monks by giving them gifts such as food and flowers. The festival culminates in the Kathina Offering Ceremony at which cloth and new robes are offered to the monks. Kathina marks the end of Vassa and can take place from the waning moon of the eleventh lunar month to the start of the waxing moon of the twelfth (October or November).

Other Thai Festivals

Chinese New Year: Annual celebration of the Chinese New Year with dragon dances, firecrackers, Chinese food and processions. The celebrations take place throughout Thailand, and in Bangkok the main celebrations take place in the large Chinese communities in Yaorwarat Road.

Songkran: The most well-known of all the Thai festivals (the "water festival") runs from 13 to 15 April and is a celebration of the Thai lunar New Year. Traditionally it is a time when the young pay respect to their elders and to monks by sprinkling water over their hands. Many Thai will travel home to their families during this time. In recent times the fun side of the festival - which involves giant water fights - has almost taken over from the traditional side.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony (Raek Na): This takes place in early May and marks the beginning of the rice planting season. Brahmin leaders parade sacred oxen and the royal plough through Sanam Luang. The ceremonies are presided over by the king.

The Queen's Birthday: Celebrated throughout Thailand on 12 August this marks the official birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Bangkok (in particular around the grand Palace) is decorated with portraits of Her Majesty and the evening ends with public buildings being brightly lit and fireworks' displays. It is also Mothers' Day.

Vegetarian Festival: Held mainly in Phuket but also in Bangkok, it is a time when non-vegetarian Chinese will follow a strict vegetarian diet for ten days. There are also a number of processions and rituals involving sacred traditions. Some of the rituals of the devotees include walking across hot coals and climbing up ladders with bladed rungs.

Loy Krathong: Normally held in November, it falls on the full moon in the twelfth month of the Thai lunar year. It involves launching a small float traditionally made of banana wood with incense sticks and candles burning on top. At bigger gatherings the sight of thousands of these small vessels is particularly impressive. This festival takes place throughout Thailand but is best known in Chiang Mai.

The King's Birthday: Celebrated throughout Thailand on 5 December this marks the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In some areas of Bangkok groups of people light candles and sing the King's anthem. This is usually followed by entertainment in the streets and fireworks. It is also Fathers' Day.

Further Information