Thailand’s Public Holidays and National Observance Days are Fun Times to Visit the Country

Boys enjoying Thailand's Songkran festival


 

If you’re planning a trip to Thailand next year, one thing you might want to take into consideration when you choose your holiday dates are Thailand’s public holidays. Thailand has at least 16 public holidays a year, where everyone gets a day off, which is more than almost any other country in the world. Thailand’s public holidays are amazing, with fairs, festivals, concerts and more. Most months have at least one public holiday, some have more. Check out all of Thailand’s public holidays though, and you can choose the best time to come to suit your particular interests.



January – New Year’s Day – Thais do actually celebrate the Western New Year, even though the Thai New Year isn’t until April. Most people go home to visit family, which means if you’re outside Bangkok the roads can be pretty packed. In Bangkok, it’s like heaven as all the traffic jams disappear and the normally polluted air is clean from the lack of cars.

Thais who stay in Bangkok tend to go shopping as all the shopping malls and stores are open. In the Winter months too, beer gardens sprout up at shopping malls all over Bangkok, so you can spend New Year’s Day having a nice meal and then head out to an open-air beer garden for great beer and live music.

February – Makha Bucha Day – An important day in the Buddhist calendar, Makha Bucha Day celebrates certain Buddhist teachings. On Makha Bucha Day, many of the schools in Thailand will march to their local temple carrying offerings for the monks. They will walk around the temple three times and then go inside to hear the monks speak about the Lord Buddha and his lessons.

If you’re staying anywhere near a Thai school, it’s interesting to watch all the kids marching to the temple – some in traditional Thai costumes. In some areas, you’ll get seven or eight schools going to the same temple so, watching the kids walking there is like watching a mini parade.

April – Chakri Memorial Day – Chakri Memorial Day celebrates the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty (the royal dynasty of the present King of Thailand). It’s normally just a public holiday where some Thais will go to the temple but most will hang out with family and friends to go shopping or to eat. You’ll also see a lot of enormous photos of the present King and Queen being put up all over Bangkok.

Songkran – Songkran is the biggest holiday in Thailand as it’s Thai New Year. It’s a three day holiday (Monday to Wednesday) although many people will take the week off. People travel to their families and then the water festival starts.

All over Thailand, for three to five days, if you venture outside you will get wet through as kids and adults both splash, squirt or throw water at you. You may get a bit of a squirt of a water pistol, a splash from a hose pipe, or an entire bucket of water poured over your head and nobody is safe. If you don’t like getting wet, stay inside until after 6pm when it will stop until the day after. But, Thailand is so hot at this time of year that getting wet is really fun. Chiang Mai is the best place to celebrate Songkran, but anywhere is a blast.

May – Coronation Day – Coronation Day celebrates the coronation of His Royal Highness King Bhumipol Adulyadej, the present King of Thailand. Again, most Thais spend the day shopping or eating out with family. The shopping malls are packed on this day so, if you have urgent shopping, save it for another time if you can.

It’s also a time for even more enormous photos of the King to be displayed. And, when I say enormous, I mean some of them are literally the size of 12 storey buildings. You’ll even see the King’s picture decorating the outside of massive sky scrapers, so his face can be seen for miles. Really lovely.

Royal Ploughing Day – This is an interesting holiday as it blesses Thailand’s farmers. There is a fascinating ceremony at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace, in Bangkok which involves several oxen, some government officials and different grains. Depending on which grains the oxen eat first, this tells whether it will be a good harvest season or not in the coming year.

The ceremony is also shown on Thai TV, so if you don’t want to go down to the actual field (it gets quite crowded), you can still see it. If you do go to the field, it’s a wonderful place to take photographs.

Vesak – May is chock full of holidays as Vesak is also a public holiday. Vesak celebrates Buddha’s birthday, life and death, and on this day most Thais will go to temple to give make merit (donate to the temple and to the monks). Making merit means you will get a place in heaven, so public holidays like Vesak are important in Thailand. Some temples will also have temple fairs with lots of traditional Thai food, games, dancing and even Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) matches.

July – Asanha Bucha Day– Another important day on the Buddhist calendar, this public holiday commemorates the Buddha’s first teachings after he attained enlightenment. Again, another day where Thais go to give merit at the temple, and another day where you might find your local temple putting on a fair.

Khao Phansa Day – This day marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent. Buddhist Lent, unlike Western Lent, is not a time where Buddhist deprive themselves of anything though. It’s simply a time where Thai Buddhists monks retreat to their temples for three months and meditate and pray. Ordinary Thais will spend some time at temple, but many will also spend the day shopping or with friends.

August – Queen’s Birthday – August is when the Queen of Thailand’s birthday is celebrated. It is also Mother’s Day in Thailand (Mother’s and Father’s Day are the days of the King and Queen’s birthdays, as they are seen at the ‘Mother and Father of Thailand’). On this day, every Thai who can will spend the day with their families and usually take their mothers out for lunch or dinner. Not a day to go to a nice restaurant if you don’t have your mom with you as every restaurant in town is packed full of Thai families.

But, if your mom happens to be on holiday with you, then she’ll be made to feel like a queen at any restaurant in Thailand. Flowers are also incredibly cheap in Thailand. You can actually purchase a bouquet of red roses for your mom for less than $3.

October – Chulalongkorn Day – This day commemorates the death of King Chulalongkorn or Rama V, one of Thailand’s most beloved kings. King Chulalongkorn was involved in many projects that helped Thailand and Thai people and is spoken of as having helped to bring Thailand into the modern day world. He also abolished slavery in Thailand, so is one of Thailand’s national heroes.

On Chulalongkorn Day, again, it’s a great time for families and friends to shop and eat, although many Thais will also buy large floral wreaths and lay them at the base of Rama V’s statue at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok.

November – Loy Krathong – Loy Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon, so changes dates every November. It’s a time when Thais pay respect to the water spirits and is one of the most fun festivals in Thailand. “Loy” means “to float” and “krathong” is a small boat.

On the day of Loy Krathong, Thais gather at any body of water — ocean, river, stream, lake etc — in their neighborhood and float krathongs on the water. Krathongs are made from banana leaves or colored loaves of bread and are stuffed with flowers, candles, incense and money as an offering to the water spirits. In some parts of the country, as the krathongs are launched, small children jump into the water to try to collect the money from the little boats.

The best places to celebrate Loy Krathong are at Thai temples all over the country as not only will their be the floating of the boats, but usually temple fairs with kids rides, food stalls, Thai dancing, Muay Thai kickboxing fights and more.

December – December is one of the best days for public holidays as there are three important ones.

King’s Birthday – One of the most important holidays of the year is the birthday of the King of Thailand. It falls on December 5th and is also the day all Thais celebrate Father’s Day.

The King of Thailand is revered almost like a living god, so Thais from all over the country go to temple to pray for the King. There is also an enormous celebration for the King at Sanam Luang (near the Grand Palace). A few hundred thousand Thais attend the celebrations. Here you’ll find food stalls, musicians from all over Thailand playing on a gigantic stage. Then, when it goes dark, everyone in attendance will light a candle – an unbelievably beautiful sight, against the backdrop of Wat Phra Kaow and the Grand Palace, the most beautiful buildings in Thailand.

In other provinces in Thailand, you will also find parades and fireworks as every Thai loves to celebrate the King. For fathers, it is also Father’s Day and many Thais will take their dads out for a meal, to play a round of golf, or to a movie.

Constitution Day – Constitution Day falls on the 10th of December and celebrates Thailand’s first real constitution. It’s basically just a chance for a holiday from work after an exhausting year. Thais will either sleep, shop, eat or go and see a movie.

New Year’s Eve – Even though it’s a Western holiday, Thais still really get into New Year’s Eve. There are several large concerts and shows all over Bangkok, all the night clubs throw big parties, and many of the restaurants will have special New Year’s Eve dinners. The shopping malls are crowded and everyone is in a wonderful mood.

Most Thai people are on holiday from December 31st to January 4th or 5th, so they’re in a relaxed mood in preparation for their break. Central World Plaza in Bangkok is the most popular place to see in the New Year, but other places are fun too.

All of these public holidays in Thailand have one thing in common, Thais will have fun. Even at temple, or celebrating the King’s birthday, Thais are a fun-loving people and make the best out of every moment. Public holidays are days to have a great time so, if you’re lucky enough to be in Thailand for one of them, enjoy it.

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