THAI HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
California, apparently, knows how to party, but Thailand most definitely likes to have long weekends. There are more public holidays and festivals in Thailand than there are fat German paedophiles in Pattaya. Even then, government departments can usually contrive to add another one or two extra days off work at short notice each year because they forgot that there was an election scheduled or that it has been 12 months since the Minister of Public Holidays had a long weekend in Phuket with his mia noi (mistress).
As the date of many public holidays is determined by the lunar calendar and others are on fixed dates, there are many occasions when this means public holidays fall on a weekday, which transpires into everyone taking an extra day or two off and being away from the office for 4 or 5 days. Oh, sod it! Let’s have another week off. If any of the holidays fall on the weekend, there is a substitution day arranged for the following Monday.
These are the official public holidays and main times for taking the family to your condo in Hua Hin:
• Western New Year: December 31 / January 1. These are now official Thai public holidays, and why not?
• Makkha Bucha: February (full moon of the third lunar month). A Buddhist holy day, celebrating 1,250 enlightened monks coming to hear the Lord Buddha preach without having been summonsed.
• Chakri Day: April 6. Commemorates the founding of the current monarchical Chakri dynasty by Rama I.
• Songkran: April 13 – 15. Thai New Year celebrations. The government invariably adds another day because…, well... Well, why not? Songkran is supposed to last for 3 days but up country it can go on for a week or two if no-one keeps count. Pattaya has its own unique celebrations just to make sure that the celebrations keep going a little longer. (see Songkran Tips)
• Labour Day: May 1. After two weeks back at work following Songkran, it’s the start of the May holiday season.
• Coronation Day: May 5. A public holiday to celebrate the anniversary of the coronation of His Majesty King Rama IX.
• Royal Ploughing Ceremony: May. Held in Bangkok to celebrate the beginning of the rice planting season.
• Visakkha Bucha: May (15th day of the waxing moon in the 6th lunar month). This is another Buddhist holy day that commemorates the coinciding dates of the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.
• Asalha Bucha: July (full moon). Honouring the first sermon given by the Lord Buddha.
• Khao Phansaa (Buddhist Lent): This is the beginning of the rainy season and the time when young men are ordained into the monk hood. Senior monks also cease their wanderings for three months, originally to prevent them trampling the rice fields during this vital time for the agricultural community. In Ubon Ratchatani, they celebrate with a special Candle Festival.
• Queen’s Birthday (Mother’s Day): August 12.
• Chulalungkorn Day: October 23. In honour of King Chulalungkorn (Rama V).
• King’s Birthday: December 5.
These are just a few more reasons to get the fairy lights out and call in sick:
• Bosang Umbrella Fair: January. Held in Chiang Mai to celebrate paper umbrellas.
• Phra BuddhaBaht Fair: January 31 to February 1. This is a major festival at Saraburi 236km north of Bangkok with music, drama and other events.
• Chinese New Year: February(ish). It’s not officially a holiday but thanks to the large Chinese population and ancestry in Thailand, nobody seems to let that stop them.
• Flower Carnival: February. Chiang Mai again. Flowers this time.
• Yasothon Bun Bangfai (Rocket) Festival: May. A time for men who should know better to pack gunpowder into bamboo and aim for the skies. Very dangerous but good fun.
• Fruit Fairs: May in Rayong, June in Chantaburi.
• Buffalo Races: October. Held in Chonburi, 80km east of Bangkok.
• Bridge on the River Kwai Week: October. Light and Sound shows held in Kanchanaburi at and around the infamous railway bridge over river.
• Loy Kratong: October/November. Full moon night with small boats (kratongs) being floated on Thailand’s waterways to honour the water deities. It’s especially fervent in Chiang Mai and colourful in Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Bangkok. (see Loy Kratong)
• Elephant Roundup: November. Surin’s claim to fame.
There are so many more, but you get the general idea.