Thaipusam Festival – Batu Caves, Malaysia

Thaipusam is celebrated every year by the Hindu Tamil community on the full month in the Thai month (February) of the Hindu lunar calendar. As Malaysia has a sizeable Hindu Tamil population, the festival is celebrated on a large scale among the Tamil community, the main location of which culminates in Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, and in Balathanda-yuthapani temple which is located on a hill in Penang.

The word Thaipusam refers to the Pusam star which is believed to be at its highest point in the Thai month. In the spirit of the Malaysian unity and also their frequently crossed religious cultures, Thaipusam is also celebrated by a growing number of ethnic Chinese in the country as well as those of the Sikh faith.

The celebration starts as early as 1am on the day of the festival. In Kuala Lumpur, devotees would start to gather at the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Bandar Road to witness the ceremonial bath of Lord Muruga. The deity would be adorned with colorful flowers, precious stones and elaborate ornaments before being placed on a ceremonial silver chariot which would be drawn by two oxen. The entire chariot weighs about 5 tonnes in total. A pilgrimage would then proceed on foot from the Sri Maha Mariamman temple on a 15km journey to the shrine at the Batu Caves Hindu temple. The final journey culminates in a 272-step ascent to the temple which is in the caves. The journey would start at 4am and last for about 8 hours to Batu Caves. Hundreds of devotees will accompany the chariot on the long journey, many carrying kavadi as self-inflicted penance.

Similarly in Penang, a grand procession starts from Little India and goes on a 18km journey to Nattukottai Chettiar Thandayuthapani Kovil and Waterfall temple (Balathanda-yuthapani) in Jalan Air Terjun Waterfall Road) during Thaipusam Penang.

The legend

There are a few legends associated with how the celebration of Thaipusam came about. In one of the legends, the Great Saint Agasthya had instructed his student Idumban to uproot two hills from the earth which belonged to Lord Murugan and to bring the hills back to the Great Saint. When Lord Murugan heard about this, he wanted to test Idumban’s loyalty and devotion to his master. He reduced his size to that of a small child and stood on top one of the hills. To Idumban’s great surprise, he was unable to uproot any of the hills and when he checked, he saw a small child standing haughtily on the top of the hill. Idumban humbly requested for the child to step down from the hill, but when the child refused, Idumban flew into a great rage and tried to attack the child. This failed, for the child was Lord Murugan in disguise, and Idumban found himself on a heap on the ground like an injured little bird. Lord Murugan then reverted back into his original form and stood before Idumban and told him that he was pleased with Idumban’s show of faith, loyalty and devotion to his master. Lord Murugan also bestowed Idumban the honour of being his guardian and made a declaration that from then on, whoever who brought forth kavadis to him would receive his blessings. The kavadis that you see at Thaipusam festivals today symbolizes the hills of burden that Idumban had borne. This is why most temples chosen for the festival are usually on top of hills.

There were other legends surrounding the origin of Thaipusam. In another version, a demon by the name of Tharakasuran was troubling the Rishis and the Saints. Lord Murugan was called forth by his parents Lord Shiva and Parvati and was instructed to destroy the demon. He was given 12 weapons, the twelfth being a ‘vel’, a spear like weapon with an arrowhead tip, given to him by his mother Parvati. Lord Murugan destroyed Tharakasuran on the Pusam Nakshatra day in the Thai month of the Tamil calendar. In yet another version of how Thaipusam came about, on that legendary day, Shiva and Parvati were engaged in a beautiful dance as the other gods watched.

Thaipusam is also believed to originate from a war between the celestial beings Devas and Asuras, the evil forces. This war torn the world apart, and the Devas paid homage to Lord Shiva, asking for His protection. Lord Shiva agreed to help them, and He opened the central eye on His forehead, radiating six sparks of fire, which convered into his son, the Lord Murugan. Armed with a golden spear, called the Nyanya Vel, Lord Murugan went to battle, and after a long and fierce battle, Lord Murugan slain Soorapadme in one stroke. One portion of the slain Soorapadme was converted into a peacock as the Lord Murugan’s vehicle and the other portion into a rooster adorning his banner. This is why the vel (spear) and peacock feathers are frequently incorporated into the festivities of Thaipusam.

Similar themes run through all the legends. They involve Lord Murugan eradicating negative and evil forces that eradicate us and it is this theme that runs through the entire Thaipusam festival. On this day, devotees make offerings to Lord Murugan to thank him for banishing evil forces from their lives, and the kavadi or burden that the devotee bears for Lord Murugan has benefits that are a million fold greater than the little pain that the devotee would inflict upon him or herself.

The Kavadi

The kavadi concept comes in many forms. Generally, devotees take up a vow to offer the Lord a kavadi as a tiding over a great calamity or as an oath to ask for help from the Lord Murugan. For example, a parent whose son is sick would pray for his son’s recovery in return for which the devotee would dedicate a kavadi to the lord.

A kavadi has many shapes and sizes. The most spectacular forms of kavadi are the vel kavadis where the structures are in the shapes of metal frames adorned with colourful decorations, peacock feathers, flowers and golden chains. Others are much simpler in structure, in the form of a wooden stick with two baskets at the end. The simplest form of a kavadi would be to carry a jug of milk. Brass bells are most often adorned on the kavadi, ringing as the kavadi bearer walks, announcing his presence.

These kavadi structures are often attached to the kavadi bearers’ bodies. The most memorable and focal point of the festival would be to witness these kavadi bearers and the self-torture they inflict upon themselves as an act of devotion towards Lord Murugan. Some pierce a sharp spear through their tongue, and others through their cheeks. Piercing the vel through the tongue is said to prevent free speech so that the devotee can focus his entire concentration on the Lord Murugan. Some pierce steel hooks into flesh off of their backs. Some of these hooks are connected to a person pulling a rope, or connected to small bells and fruits, or limes in particular. A single lime may not weigh much, but when the hooks are connected to 50 limes down a devotee’s back, the feat involved a great wealth of devotion and tolerance. We call it self-torture but the kavadi-bearer is often in a state of trance and claims to feel no pain. A first time kavadi bearer however, may be a little apprehensive when the vel hooks are pierced through the skin and the metal straps of the kavadi structures are tightened. This usually goes away once the priest arrives to give a blessing, sometimes putting the kavadi bearer into a trance, allowing the family members and friends to continue on with the piercing.

For the others, there are often no signs of blood or pain on the bearers’ faces or signs of any scarring after the hooks have been taken out. They are said to be in the highest form of religious fervor and sometimes are even possessed by Lord Muruga himself. These kavadi bearers are also often accompanied by friends and family for support and in the long and tortuous journey up to the temple, it is the support by fellow devotees and surrounding friends and family that the kavadi bearer relies on to keep going. The kavadis may seem weightless like feathers as the kavadi bearers dance and swing all the way to the temple. Yet, the journey is not easy and the structures weigh as much as 70kg, sometimes more. As the procession nears the temple, the sun would have risen by this time and the large crowds would have added to the sweltering heat that the kavadi bearers have to tolerate as well. The bearers are usually barefoot and would have to walk on the burning hot tarmac once the sun rises. The hardest part of the journey is often not the journey on the road but once they reach the foot of the hill as 272 steps stand between them and the temple. The encouragement of family members and other devotees are crucial to climb up all 272 steps.

The procession is not a quiet affair, and the stream of devotees is always accompanied by a band of percussionists and a leader singing religious songs, called the urumee. The tasks of these musicians are to encourage and give support to the kavadi bearers to continue in their journey of faith. The music is encouraging, as those carrying the vel kavadi are more prone to fatigue, and they frequently have to stop throughout the journey to rest.

The kavadi bearer usually observes strict customs and “regulations” prior to carrying the kavadi on the day of the festival. Kavadi bearers usually observe strict celibacy from sex, drugs and alcohol. They will also meditate and pray and practice vegetarianism before the start of the festival. These acts of devotion and holiness are also observed by other devotees, not just the kavadi bearers. The bearers are also frequently dressed in a saffron-colored cloth, a conical scarlet cap and a cane which is silver capped at both ends. As mentioned, the devotees also frequently take part in the procession on barefoot. It is also not unusual to see devotees of other faiths and religion take part in this unique festival. Among the ethnic Chinese community, especially the Buddhists who share many of the same beliefs as Hindus, it is not unusual to see Chinese people among the devotees with a jug of milk atop their heads as they march along with the procession to the temple. The grand affair will also be attended by hundreds of tourists and photographers as they scramble to get the spot that will attain the best view of the procession. This spirit of kindred unity and combined faith is even more prominent in the state of Penang, where the population is predominantly Chinese. The lines between faiths blur as the festival is more about upholding and showing one’s faith, courage and devotion to his or her God regardless of religion.

Penance

There are other ways for devotees to fulfill their religious obligations other than carrying kavadis. Some provide support for the kavadi bearers and massage their sore arms and legs or provide stools for the bearers to sit whenever they stop to rest. Some devotees shave their head and facial hair while some prepare food so that the other devotees would not have to go hungry. In fact, on Thaipusam there will usually be a congregation of Indian barbers at the foot of the hill with thousands of eager customers, each waiting to shave his or her hair. Each devotee has his or her own reasons for doing penance. As mentioned earlier, some seek to overcome bad luck or karma, others to honour a vow made, and some as penance for their sins. It is believed that once a vow has been fulfilled and if the devotee does not carry a kavadi as promised, he or she will receive misfortune in return.

The atmosphere on the day of Thaipusam is electric and has a festive air filled with the beating of drums, chanting, and singing. The crowd will be massive, almost a million strong, full of eager devotees and tourists alike to witness the arrival of the procession and the deity and to participate in the festivities. A path laden with smashed coconuts would greet the chariot the entire journey, believed to signify the triumph of good over evil. Once ascended up the steep stairs of the cave and into the shrine, the devotees are blessed by the Hindu priests and the hooks and spears can then be removed. The vow is finally said to be fulfilled.

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Public Holidays in Philippines in 2014

Philippines is a place of dreams to many foreign visitors. A variety of festivals and celebrations will allow you to experience a different culture and way of life.

There are more than fifty public holidays and festivals celebrated in Philippines every year. If you are planning to visit this country of islands, a good idea will be to do it at the time of festivities.

The expected dates for public holidays and festivals in Philippines in 2014 are shown in the list below.

Sto. Niño Festival

Date 2014: Tuesday, 1 January (27 January in Bulacan)
Occasion: This festival is held on different days in different provinces of Philippines. In Bulacan this festival is help during the last Sunday of January. In some other provinces it’s held during the first Sunday of January. The festivities are somehow different in some regions but basically the local and foreign tourists have an opportunity to see very well-made Catholic images and statues of the Child Jesus, known locally as the Sto. Niño in various manifestations.
States applicable to: National

Pista ng Tatlong Hari (Feast of the Three Kings)

Date 2014: Sunday, 5 January
Occasion: During the feast of the Three Kings, also known as the Epiphany, in Philippines people usually pray and prepare gifts for Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. This feast usually marks the official end of the liturgical Christmas in Philippines.
States applicable to: National

Pista ng Mahal na Nazareno (Feast of the Black Nazarene)

Date 2014: Thursday, 9 January
Occasion: Catholics and devotees of the Black Nazarene come together in what has always been an all-day intense procession carrying the huge cart where the Black Nazarene lies. Every year thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to Philippines (Manila) to be a part of the procession of the Black Nazarene.
States applicable to: Quiapo, Manila only

Araw ng Koronadal “Hinugyaw Festival”

Date 2014: Thursday, 10 January
Occasion: During this feast, people of Koronadal City in Mindanao celebrate various cultural facades that have settled in the city over the years.
States applicable to: Mindanao only

Ati-Atihan Festival

Date 2014:  From Sunday to Sunday, 19-26 January
Occasion: One of the grandest street parties in the Philippines, this feast celebrates the Sto. Niño. It is held on every third week of January in Aklan, and is more popularly known around the world as Ati-Atihan. During this event, the locals of Aklan and tourists put marks on their faces similar to masks. They are supposed to resemble Negritos who are dancing to vibrant ethnic music produced mostly by drums and other local instruments.
States applicable to: Aklan only

Sinulog Festival

Date 2014: Sunday, 19 January
Occasion: Locals of Kabankalan, Negros Occidental come together in unique mostly handmade costumes while their bodies are painted in black. They are celebrating the feast of El Señor Sto. Niño.
States applicable to: National

Zambulawan

Date 2014: Sunday, 19 January
Occasion: During this feast, people of Koronadal City in Mindanao celebrate various cultural facades that have settled in the city over the years.
States applicable to: Zamboanga del Sur only

Pasungay Festival in San Joaquin (Bull Fighting Festival)

Date 2014: Every 21st day of January
Occasion: Pasungay is an annual festival held in the town of San Joaquin, Iloilo. Local people say that the Pasungay begun when two furious bulls were set loose by the cow keepers and the fighting bulls in the hillside was witnessed by the resting farmers. During this festival, spectators cheer as they watch bulls from the town and nearby areas fight. There’s also another annual festival held in the town of San Joaquin on the same day. It’s called Pahibag – the annual horse fight festival.
States applicable to: Iloilo only

Dinagyang Festival

Date 2014: Sunday, 26 January
Occasion: Dinagyang is a religious and cultural festival held in the city of Iloilo. Anyone attending the Dinagyang Festival must shout the words “Hala Bira” as they dance to the vivacious music along the populated streets. Just like most of the festivals in Philippines, this one is also very colorful and joyful.
States applicable to: Iloilo only

Chinese New Year

Date 2014: Friday, 31 January
Occasion: As far as I’m aware, Filipinos do respect the Chinese community. During the last few years, the Chinese New Year has been considered a national holiday. I think this fact speaks for itself. I bet you know the Dragon dance because it symbolizes the start of a Chinese new year not only in Chine but in Philippines as well.
States applicable to: National

Pista ng Mahal na Patron ng Kandila (Feast of Our Lady of Candles)

Date 2014: Saturday, 2 February
Occasion: Thousands of devotees gather at the Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo to celebrate the feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. It is one of the most lavish religious spectacles in the country. The feast starts with the blessing of the candle and continues with a procession of Nuestra Senora de Candelaria, the patroness of the festivity.
States applicable to: Iloilo only

Kaamulan in Bukidnon (Ethnic Cultural Festival of Bukidnon)

Date 2014: Saturday, 22 February
Occasion: The Kaamulan Festival in Bukidnon is yet another proof of rich culture of Mindanao island. It’s held on the first week of March. The streets of Malaybalay become live and colorful, the locals and tourists are partying all week. Great music, ethnic food fest, and native dancing until the end of the week – this is what Kaamulan is all about.
States applicable to: Bukidnon only

Panagbenga (Flower Festival)

Date 2014: Sunday, 23 February
Occasion: As far as I’m aware, Filipinos do respect the Chinese community. During the last few years, the Chinese New Year has been considered a national holiday. I think this fact speaks for itself. I bet you know the Dragon dance because it symbolizes the start of a Chinese new year not only in Chine but in Philippines as well.
States applicable to: Baguio city only

Sibug-Sibug Festival

Date 2014: Tuesday, 26 February
Occasion: This festival is celebrated during the foundation day of the Sibugay province. Sibug-Sibug festival is another colorful parade of cultural treasures. Experience street dancing, ethnic rituals illustrating good harvest, wedding and healing rituals. It usually lasts for two weeks. Have you ever tasted the world-famous oysters of Sibugay? No, then this is your chance.
States applicable to: Sibugay only

Paraw Regatta

Date 2014: Sunday, 2 March
Occasion: This is an absolutely amazing event for all sailing enthusiasts. It’s one of the most exciting races of colorful sailboats called Paraws. The festival is held annually in the straits between Guimaras Island and the city of Iloilo. It’s also a perfect time to show off stunning Paraw design.
States applicable to: Iloilo only

Sandugo Festival (Blood Compact Commemoration)

Date 2014: Saturday, 15 March
Occasion: Sandugo means “one blood”. The Blood Compact happened between Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Sikatuna, chief of Bool (now Bohol), as a sign of friendship and end of hostility. Today, the city of Tagbilaran, Bohol commemorates this event through a feast and some series of interesting local events.
States applicable to: Bohol only

Mahal na Araw (Holy Week)

Date 2014: From Sunday, 23-31 March
Occasion: The Philippine Holy Week celebration is a period of wherein devotees reenact the significant moments of Jesus Christ’s life, from the time of his preaching, going through the time of his death, and until his resurrection.
States applicable to: National

Via Crusis (Way of the Cross)

Date 2014: From Monday to Sunday, 24-31 March
Occasion: Via Crusis or Via Dolorosa is a religious devotion that takes place in Cebu City and commemorates 14 key events on day of Christ’s crucifixion during the season of Lent. It’s attended mostly by Cebuano devotees and other devotees who voluntarily join the penitential procession to 12 Stations of the Cross found in 12 hectares of rolling hills.
States applicable to: Cebu City

Turumba (Our Lady of Sorrows of Turumba)

Date 2014: Friday, 28 March
Occasion: This procession is held during the Good Friday. Devotees usually carry the ancient image of the Virgin Mary on the streets of Pakil, Laguna. They dance and sing in the streets making religious procession even more enjoyable.
States applicable to: Pakil, Laguna

Ang Pagtaltal sa Guimaras

Date 2014: Friday, 28 March
Occasion: It’s held during the Good Friday in the city of Jordan. Locals come together to reenact the Crucifixion of Christ. Devotees start the penitential procession to the “Balaan Bukid” or the Holy Mountain where a cross stands towering at the chapel overlooking the Guimaras Straight and Iloilo City.
States applicable to: Jordan, Guimaras

Pak’kaat Kallo

Date 2014: From Monday to Sunday, 1-7 April
Occasion: During this festivity, the tribe of Manobo in Magpet, Cotabato celebrates their bountiful harvests through rituals, dances and songs during the holy week.
States applicable to: Magpet, Cotabato

Manaoag Pilgrimages

Date 2014: From Monday to Sunday, 7-14 April
Occasion: Our Lady of Manaoag is visited by both local and foreign devotees. Most Catholics believe that Our Lady of Manaoag has miraculous powers. Manaoag, becomes one of the Philippines’ pilgrimage centers because of the miraculous image. On Saturday, vehicles that transport pilgrims are blessed.
States applicable to: Pangasinan only

Cutud Lenten Rites

Date 2014: Wednesday, 16 April
Occasion: Cutud, Pampanga region is known all around the world for probably the most realistic reenactment of the Passion of the Christ including the actual nailing of three flagellants. They are nailed on a wooden cross in San Pedro.
States applicable to: San Pedro, Cutud, Pampanga

Moriones Festival

Date 2014: Monday, 14 April
Occasion: In Marinduque, locals take part in the traditional reenactment of the Crucifixion of Christ with the soldiers or “Moriones” wearing colorful masks and costumes. The Moriones refer to the heartless Roman soldiers. The festival’s highlight is the reenactment of the conversion of Longguinus, the one who stabbed Jesus and was eventually beheaded.
States applicable to: Boac, Magpoc, Marinduque

Lamilamihan Festival

Date 2014: Sunday, 13 or 20 April
Occasion: This annual event showcases the rich culture of Yakan – indigenous tribes in Mindanao. Yakan music, dances and handmade crafts are absolutely amazing.
States applicable to: Lamitan, Basilan

Pista’y Dayat (Sea Festival)

Date 2014: Thursday, 1 May
Occasion: A day of Lingayen, Pangasinan thanksgiving for bountiful harvests and abundant fishing observed all over Pangasinan traditional with mass offering on beautiful beaches and fluvial parade.
States applicable to: Lingayen, Pangasinan

Viva Vigan Festival

Date 2014: From Thursday to Monday, 1-5 May
Occasion: Viva Vigan Festival is the main event in the city of Vigan that showcases the cultural richness of this northern tourist destination. Unique and amazing art of the Bigueños is definitely the highlight of this festival.
States applicable to: Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Flores de Mayo/Santacruzan (Flowers of May)

Date 2014: During May
Occasion: Santacruzan is a very popular event in Philippines. During this event people celebrate the finding of the True Cross by Santa Elena. Prior to Santacruzan, a nine-day novena is held honoring the Holy Cross. It is followed by a procession wherein Reina Elena is represented by a beautiful girl accompanied by a boy who shall represent King Constantine. Other girls and boys in the parade represent biblical characters. Well-decorated arches are the highlights of this event. It’s a month-long national festival.
States applicable to: National

Antipolo Pilgrimage

Date 2014: During May
Occasion: During the month of May, pilgrims walk from their homes to the Antipolo Church in Rizal province to visit the miraculous image of the Virgin of Antipolo.
States applicable to: Antipolo Rizal

Pahiyas Festival

Date 2014: Thursday, 15 May
Occasion: Houses are decorated in amazingly colorful fruits, vegetables and flowers. A noodle called “habhab” and the transparent rice tortilla called “kiping” are served during Pahiyas Festival.
States applicable to: Lucban, Quezon

Mudpack Festival

Date 2014: Saturday and Sunday, 14-14 June
Occasion: The Mudpack Festival in Negros Occidental is a symbolic celebration of “primitive people”, opposite to people of the so-called modern world. They respect nature and everything sorounding them. It celebrates the harmony of man and nature and encourages environmentalism among young people.
States applicable to: Mambkal Murcia, Negros Occidental

Parada ng Lechon

Date 2014: Tuesday, 24 June
Occasion: Parada ng Lechon means “roasted pork. During this annual event, several roasted porks are decorated and showcased in Balayan. People also pour water during this event. It’s highly recommended to bring some extra clothes when visiting the Parada ng Lechon in June 
States applicable to: Mambkal Murcia, Balayan, Batangas

Pintados/Kasadyaan Festival

Date 2014: Sunday, 29 June
Occasion: Local people of Tacloban who had tattoos during the Spanish years were highly regarded as courageous. During the Pintados Festival, local and foreign tourists decorate themselves to imitate brave warriors while dancing to vibrant beats of drums.
States applicable to: Tacloban City

Bocaue River Festival

Date 2014: Sunday, 6 July
Occasion: The Bocaue River Festival commemorates the discovery of the miraculous cross floating and landmark called “Wawa.” What is unique about festival however is the procession down the river with a huge ornately decorated pagoda float when people get soaked in the river water.
States applicable to: Bocaue

Kinabayo Festival

Date 2014: Thursday, 24 July
Occasion: The annual Kinabayo Festival features a re-enactment of the Spanish-Moors wars especially the Battle of Covadonga, the historic last stand of Spanish soldiers under General Pelagio versus Saracan.
States applicable to: Dapitan City

Paaway sa Kabayo (Horse Fighting Festival)

Date 2014: Friday, 25 July
Occasion: Male horses fight over female horses – this is what the Paaway sa Kabayo is all about. More than 100 horses have been trained solely for this twice a year event.
States applicable to: Tanjay, Negros Oriental

Rajah Baguinda Festival

Date 2014: Sunday, 10 August
Occasion: Rajah Baguinda festival is highly respected for spreading Islam and establishing the power of the Sultanate Government in the archipelago of Sulu. The Rajah Baguinda Festival showcases a rich culture of Sulu. It’s a three-day festival.
States applicable to: Jolo, Sulu

Eid-El FITR Muslim Festival

Date 2014: Thursday, 7 August
Occasion: This Muslim festival that signifies the end of Ramadan, or the holy month of fasting, has been declared a national holiday to give further respect to the Islamic religion in the Philippines.
States applicable to: National

Kadayawan sa Dabaw

Date 2014: Saturday and Sunday, 23-24 August
Occasion: Kadayawan sa Dabaw – the king of all festivals in Philippines. Held at the third week of August, Kadayawan celebrates the bountiful harvest of Davao’s flowers, fruits and other produce as well as the wealth of the city’s culture.
States applicable to: Davao City

Sarakiki

Date 2014: All week, 1-8 September
Occasion: Sarakiki celebrates cockfighting as a hobby among many Filipinos. During this festival people dance in costumes that make them look like the brave fighting roosters.
States applicable to: National

Bonok-Bonok Maradjao Karadjao Festival

Date 2014: Tuesday, 9 September
Occasion: A colorful festival showcasing the Surigaonon’s Tribal Culture through street dancing celebrated every 9th of September.
States applicable to: Surigao City

Peñafrancia Viva La Virgen

Date 2014: Saturday, 20 September
Occasion: Peñafrancia Viva La Virgen is one of the most important religious celebrations in Naga city. It’s celebrated in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the patroness of Bicol. The festival is characterized by a nine-day procession along the Bicol river, and ends with Our Lady of Peñafrancia crossing the river whilst surrounded by glowing candles.
States applicable to: Naga City, Camarines Sur

Lemlunay (T’Boli Tribal Festival)

Date 2014: From Tuesday to Thursday, 16-18 September
Occasion: Lemlunay is an annual festival held at the beautiful lake Sebu. It features original T’boli’s tribal rituals which commence with the sound of gongs and native music. The event is culminated at the Town Plaza where cultural street dancing and ethnic sports, like horse fighting, are held.
States applicable to: Lake Sebu, South Cotabato

Zamboanga La Hermosa Festival

Date 2014: From Wednesday to Sunday, 1-12 October
Occasion: The miraculous image of Our Lady of the Pilar at Fort Pila is celebrated during the Zamboanga La Hermosa festival.
States applicable to: National

Lanzones Festival

Date 2014: Saturday, 18 October
Occasion: The harvest of small round yellow fruit called lanzones is celebrated during the Lanzones Festival. Streets are filled with local dancers and tourists. Cultural shows, parties, parades and beauty pageant are also held. One of the aims of the festival is to show the rich cultural products of Camiguin.
States applicable to: Mambajao, Camiguin

Masskara Festival

Date 2014: Saturday and Sunday, 18-19 October
Occasion: Also known as the Mardi Gras of Philippines. Bacolod City air is filled with cheerful and outrageous spirits during the Masskara Festival. Young and old participants wear masks and magnificent costumes while dancing around the main streets of the city. The city of Bacolod is also called the City of Smiles.
States applicable to: Bacolod City, Negros Occidental

La Naval De Manila (Procession of the Blessed Virgin Mary of La Naval)

Date 2014: Sunday, 12 October
Occasion: The harvest of small round yellow fruit called lanzones is celebrated during the Lanzones Festival. Streets are filled with local dancers and tourists. Cultural shows, parties, parades and beauty pageant are also held. One of the aims of the festival is to show the rich cultural products of Camiguin.
States applicable to: Sto. Domingo, Q. C.

Pinta Flores Festival

Date 2014: From Monday to Wednesday 3-5 November
Occasion: It’s one of the most popular and definitely the most colorful street dancing festival/contest in San Carlos City. This festival is all about flowers and dances, amazing costumes, and the triumph of good against evil. PintaFlores Festival is attended by local and foreign tourists who join the locals in a city-wide celebration.
States applicable to: Negros Occidental, San Carlos City.

Higantes Festival (Feast of San Clemente)

Date 2014: Sunday, 23 November
Occasion: The image of San Clemente is carried by male devotees in a procession during this festival. The devotees wear fishermen clothes and carry fishermen equipment with themselves. The highlight of the festival are the dancing higantes which are paper mache puppets, usually 12 ft. high and about 5 ft. diameter. They are huge and very often shown in different forms and personalities. The procession ends at Laguna de Bay.
States applicable to: Angono, Rizal.

Grand Cordillera Festival

Date 2014: Sunday, 23 November
Occasion: Tribes and ethnic groups of the Cordillera region come together every year to celebrate life and revive ancient traditions on the last Sunday in November. This region is rich in arts and culture. If you want to see unique street dances, ritual performances or listen to great songs, Grand Cordillera Festival is definitely for you. Besides, it’s a week-long event.
States applicable to: Baguio City, Cordillera region.

Pagdidiwata

Date 2014: Monday, 8 December
Occasion: Native people of Tagbanua or Palawan celebrate through ritual dances and food offerings to the souls of their departed kin and to their deities. The thanksgiving celebration is held in Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan.
States applicable to: Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

Immaculate Conception

Date 2014: Monday, 8 December
Occasion: La Immaculada is the patroness of Intramuros, Manila. During this annual event, a procession is held with more than fifty images of the Virgin Mary from provinces and countries around the world being carried by devotees around the historic place of Intramuros.
States applicable to: Intramuros, Manila

Bikol Pastores

Date 2014: Thursday, 18 December
Occasion: This extraordinary Christmas tradition takes place in the Bicol City of Legazpi in Albay. During this event, young men and women dressed in their unique colorful shepherd costumes roam around the city, dancing and singing to the tune of “Pastores a Belen”.
States applicable to: Legazpi City, Albay

Giant Lantern Festival

Date 2014: Saturday, 20 December (held every third Saturday of December)
Occasion: San Fernando, Pampanga is known for producing the most colorful, magnificent, creative and attractive Christmas lanterns in Philippines. To celebrate the art of lantern-making, an annual festival and competition among lantern-makers is held on the Saturday before Christmas Eve. The contest features giant lanterns that are as big as forty feet in diameter and have many (usually more than thousand) light bulbs.
States applicable to: San Fernando, Pampanga

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Chinese New Year in Malaysia

It goes without saying that Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) is the most important date in the Chinese lunar calendar. During the celebrations, entire households spend a small fortune just on festivities alone. Businesses and other forms of work stop and everyone sets aside for at least 3 days to join in the celebrations.

Not only is Chinese New Year the most important festival, it is also the longest festival, lasting 15 days – the entire duration of a lunar phase. This is because the entire celebration itself adheres to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, and Chinese New Year is traditionally celebrated on the first day of the first month of the first year. Even with the diffusion of the Gregorian calendar into the Chinese culture, Chinese people still use the lunar calendar to determine other important festivals as well as auspicious dates (for marriage, childbirth and the like).

The Chinese lunar calendar itself is an extremely complicated creation, and it is based on lunar phases, equinoxes and solstices. There are 12 months in each lunar year, and each month alternates between 29 and 30 days. Because its system is totally different from the Gregorian system, Chinese New Year does not happen on the same day every year. Instead, it ranges from January 21st to February 20th. Most governments with a significant Chinese population usually use this as a basis to plan their holidays. Other than that, the lunar calendar is also famous for its zodiac signs. There are 12 signs altogether, one animal for each year and it moves in a cycle, repeating itself every 12 years. The 12 lucky animals to be included (in order) are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The story behind it:

Once upon a time the Emperor of Heaven, the Jade Emperor, decided that there should be a way of measuring time. He then initiated a race across a river – the first 12 animals to cross the river would then have the honor of being in the zodiac calendar. All the animals participated with gusto, especially the cat and the rat. The cat and the rat were good friends; however, they both could not swim. They decided to hop onto the ox’s back instead; he agreed. The cat and the rat immediately realized that the ox was a good choice when he took the lead with ease, navigating the waters without difficulty. The rat however, was cunning – he wanted to be the first. As they approached the bank, he rat pushed the cat into the water. Being unable to swim, all the cat could do was to struggle to keep afloat. After that, the rat jumped onto the bank and ran towards the Jade Emperor. He was the first to reach and therefore had the honor of being the first animal in the zodiac. The ox felt cheated, but he had no choice but to be content with second place.

The other animals also have their own stories of course, each about how they got to the finish line. These stories then contribute to the characteristics of people born in that year. For example, people born in the year of the rat will be quick-witted, enterprising and selfish; people born in the year of the ox will be friendly, genuine and apathetic. The year of 2013 happens to be the year of the snake, and its characteristics include being acute, cunning and proud. Some very traditional Chinese people go to the extent of planning to have their children in a certain year – boys born in the year of the dragon are highly favored.

Being a generally superstitious culture, the Chinese believe that if the first day of the New Year did not start out on the right foot, things would go disastrously wrong for the rest of the year. This is why many Chinese households adhere to strict traditions, to dispel bad luck and bring in prosperity instead. However, not all is grim and dreary – Chinese New Year is actually more of a joyous occasion than anything else. It is the time where the entire extended family gets together, the time for everyone to buy new clothes, the time to eat good food, and also the time to improve relationships with family and friends.

In all cultures across the world, every festivity has its own story. The story of Chinese New Year is an interesting one, and it explains many of the rituals and symbols used today.

A long time ago, monsters dominated the world. They were terrifying creatures, one especially, by the name of ‘Nian (年)’. At the end of every year, Nian would satisfy his hunger by eating humans – he had a special appetite for children. People feared this beast the most because every time he came out, whole villages would be destroyed at a time. Many brave warriors tried to slay the beast, but no one could come close to succeeding. In the end, villagers had no choice but to huddle up in their homes and tried not to be eaten. During one of those years, Nian was in an especially bad temper. One little boy however was not aware of the danger. He ran right out of the house and straight into Nian’s path. To everyone’s surprise, Nian did not eat the boy. Instead, he fled to the brink of the village, circling the perimeter but not daring to come in. The boy’s parents lit up a torch so that they could find their son and bring him back to the safety of their hut. In the process however, the torch lit up a firecracker. The loud explosion caused a horrific reaction in Nian. He howled with horror and ran away. The next morning, all the villagers were grateful to be alive. They thought about what it was exactly that spared them and in the end, concluded that Nian was afraid of the color red (the little boy wore striking red color clothes) and loud explosions. From then on, every village decorated their houses and wore clothes that were red. They also set off firecrackers with sounds as loud as possible. Nian was never seen again.

Nian (if he ever existed before), has probably died of old age now, but the traditions from long ago are still incorporated till today. Rituals and taboos are so abundant during this period that from now on let’s proceed according to the chronology. We will start a few weeks before Chinese New Year, because the preparations are just as important as the event itself. Preparations for Chinese New Year start way before the actual date as this is the time where families start buying items that contain good fortune and prosperity to decorate the house. Most items are red (remember the story of Nian); red banners with the words ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’ (more on that later) are extremely common. Other than that, red packets are also bought in bulk so that there will be enough red packets (again, more on that later) to distribute during the whole 15 days of Chinese New Year. Finally, Chinese New Year Clothes are purchased. ‘A new change for the New Year’ is the general concept behind the brand new clothes.

Besides that, food too, plays a key role during this major celebration. Lucky foods include oranges, and they are purchased by the crates as they are considered to attract wealth. Pineapples are another fruit that is well received during Chinese New Year because its Chinese name literally translates to mean ‘Come, good luck’. Other than that, ‘Nian Gao’ (a sticky sweetish substance) is popular because it can also mean ‘Nian Nian Zhang Gao’, translated to mean ‘to grow bigger and taller every year’. Lastly, fish is eaten during family reunions. Fish is read as ‘Yu’ in Chinese, and ‘Yu’ can also mean abundance. ‘Nian Nian You Yu’ is a common phrase that means ‘to be in abundance every year’.

A very thorough spring cleaning is also carried out in anticipation of this day. The whole house from top to bottom will be cleaned thoroughly, from the windows and walls to the roof. This is because families aren’t allowed to sweep the house for the whole period of Chinese New Year. The reasoning behind this is to prevent any luck from being swept away. Chinese New Year decorations are set up too. Paintings of fish and oranges are highly favored, and they are hung up as decorations on all the walls. Paper pineapples are hung at the front doors too to enhance the chances of prosperity. Red banners and lanterns will be put up as well, again for the same reasons.

Now we move on to the actual celebrations, which start on Chinese New Year’s Eve itself. On this day, extended families (from the father’s side) will gather for a family reunion dinner. This dinner usually takes place in the grandparent’s house or the house of the most senior person in the family. Dinner includes all the ‘lucky foods’ mentioned above and will usually comprise of all the favorite dishes of the family. It is during this time that relatives bond with each other. It is also the ideal time for them to catch up on each other’s lives if they live far away. Firecrackers are set off at midnight, and the goal is to make as much noise as possible to scare away evil spirits (but more to usher in the New Year than anything these days). ‘Hong Pao’ is the largest and loudest of all the firecrackers. Adults and children alike participate whole heartedly in the celebrations. Some friendly gambling is also common during this period. Blackjack or poker is especially popular.

The first day of Chinese New Year is the liveliest one. Early in the morning, everybody wears new clothes. The clothes are always bright colored – black or other dark colors are frowned upon. This, in part, is attributed to the story of ‘Nian’ again. Children, teenagers or unmarried young adults will go up to all senior relatives to wish them ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, which is translated to mean ‘May you be blessed with good fortune and prosperity’. This term will be heard very commonly throughout the whole 15 days of Chinese New Year as everyone wishes each other with this phrase. In fact, it is equivalent to the term ‘Merry Christmas’ on the 25th of December. After the children wish the elders ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, elders will distribute the ‘angpows’ (red packets) to them. Money can be found in these ‘angpows’, and the money is thought to bring prosperity to the receiver of the red packet. The distributions of angpows are reciprocal (meaning that children in every family will receive a red packet from other families), so that both parties will receive good fortune. Married couples are the ones who distribute the red packets. However, if any bad luck has befallen the family (like the death of a relative), families refrain from handing out the red packets for three years.

Other than that, some families may hire a lion dance troupe as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Chinese New Year as well as to evict bad spirits from the premises. According to folklore, the art of lion dancing had started thousand years ago in China. In ancient days, the people found it difficult to meet the lion. So, the impression of the lion was ambiguous. Members of a trope hide under a lion costume topped off with a giant lion’s head. The head of the lion can be fully controlled – in some dances, the lion even blinks in time to the beat of the drums. The lion’s mouth can also open and close, and with very good reason to do so. While performing, people may place red packets in hard to reach places, and it is the job of the lion to get it while maintaining the movements of a lion. Professional lion dance troupes are extremely impressive; they consist of many people in the costume, and can perform extreme balancing feats. The drummers of the troupe are also highly skilled; some can play the beats to such a climax that people just start cheering. Overall, the best troupes bring the most entertainment factor to crowds of people.

Since Chinese New Year’s eve and the whole first day of Chinese New Year was spent visiting the father’s side of the family, the second day has been rightfully dedicated to the mother’s side. Traditionally, it was the only time where brides could visit their birth parents, relatives and friends. Again, relatives exchange ‘angpows’ to bring in good luck. Families also pray to all their gods and ancestors during this day. The second day is also known as the birthday of all dogs, so people are especially kind to their furry friends and feed them with extra food. The third day and the fourth day are basically saved for visiting houses of friends, but some conservative Chinese believe that visiting during these days will bring both parties bad luck. They believe that during these 2 days, evil spirits roam the earth, so going outdoors at all will be bad luck.

The 5th day is supposed to be the birthday of ‘Cai Shen Ye’, the God of Wealth. Therefore it is unwise to leave your house for too long in case ‘Cai Shen Ye’ decides to pay a visit. Business and shops normally reopen on that day and it is no longer considered bad luck to sweep the house. Governments also usually have school reopened by this time. Hence, even though there are traditionally 10 days left in Chinese New Year, the major festivities will have come to an end. The occasional business dinner or last minute visitings will still be conducted here and there, but nothing will be as grand as the first 3 days.

The last day of Chinese New Year is known as ‘Chap Goh Meh’, when translated means: ‘Fifteenth Night’. It is also known as the lantern festival, where everyone lights candles to guide the wayward sprits home. Crowds of people, families, and children will also walk the street with lanterns…it really is a sight when watched from a bird’s eye view. In Malaysia and Indonesia, this night is also dedicated to young ladies searching for a suitable love partner. Young ladies who believe in this will write their contact number on a mandarin orange, and throw it into a lake or river. Young men would then pick up the oranges and eat them. If the orange is sweet, that means that the relationship would go well; if sour, that means the man should probably steer clear from that woman. Due to pollution however, this particular idea is slowly dying out. Firecrackers will again be set off, and this marks the end of the year’s Chinese New Year.

If this is the first time you are hearing about Chinese New Year, then you definitely need to come check it out for yourself. The highly charged atmosphere of the whole celebration cannot be justified in writing alone – nothing can compare to receiving your first red packet (with real money!), cheering on the Lion Dance Troupe, or even being playfully nudged by the lion himself. In Malaysia, the best place for experiencing Chinese New Year will undoubtedly be in Georgetown, Penang. Thanks to its sizable population, celebrations here are especially boisterous. Penang City Hall or the Esplanade is where you want to be for the annual countdown gala. Local celebrities and dance troupes will be there to entertain the crowds, and the whole performance will be aired live on National TV.

Kek Lok Si temple in Penang will also hold its own celebration, lasting for 33 days starting a few days before Chinese New Year to a few days after. A total of 200,000 lightbulbs and 10,000 lanterns will be lit up to shed light on this century-old temple.

Around the same area, just a little way down from Esplanade or Penang City Hall, there will be a government held celebration as well on a few of the more famous streets like Armenien street, Chulia Stree and Ah Quee Street. For people who like cultural or heritage sites, this is the place to go for you to make the best of both worlds because Georgetown has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage City. This is also the opportunity for you to photograph some of the famous street arts by renown street artist, Ernest Zacharevic. Also, if you enjoying driving hard bargains and deals, this is the time for you to scout around as items are all on sales and promotions at almost any shops. Walk around at your own leisurely pace and just take in the sights.

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Thailand Public Holidays 2013 Calendar

Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world. You may wonder why is it so popular? Well, there are many reasons why it has a special place in some many people’s hearts. First of all, Thailand is an exotic country. If you’re looking for something unique, different and rare to find then Thailand is the place to go. Their cultural celebrations and religious ceremonies are extraordinary, something you won’t see anywhere else in the world.


Secondly, their food is phenomenal, people are charming and beaches are simply stunning. Most of them are untouched and very natural. This country has a bit of everything: beautiful jungles and mountains in norther part and pristine beaches in the south.

Last, but not least, there are more than thirty public holidays and festivals celebrated in Thailand every year. If you are planning to go to Thailand and get the most of this beautiful country, you should definitely take part in some of their festivals.

The expected dates for public holidays and festivals in Thailand 2013 are shown in the list below.

New Year’s Day (Solar and Gregorian calendars)

Date: January 1st, 2013
Why celebrated: Continuing on from December 31st, January 1st is also observed as a public holiday. A day for people to relax and recover from the parties and firework displays of the night before!
Where: Nationwide

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival

Dates: January 20th – 22nd, 2013
Why celebrated: Known for its colourful, hand crafted umbrellas and parasols, every year the village of Bo Sang holds a yearly festival celebrating its local art. The village’s craft shops are brightly decorated and there is also a pageant to crown Miss Bo Sang. This is an interesting glimpse into an ancient culture if you happen to be in the area.
Where: Bo Sang Village, near Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Dates: February 1st – 3rd, 2013
Why celebrated: On the first weekend in February Chiang Mai explodes in a riot of colour. Although most activity is in Suan Buak Haad Park, the whole city plays a part in the floral celebrations with the municipal flower beds paid even more attention to than usual. You’ll be able to buy orchids in the park and watch the float parades of local beauties competing to be crowned the Miss Chiang Mai Flower Festival Queen.
Where: Chiang Mai

Chinese New Year

Date: February 10th, 2013
Why celebrated: Many Thais have Chinese origins, some only going back a generation or two and Chinese culture has played a big part in establishing the Thailand we know today. In many towns and cities you’ll see Chinese characters on older shops, alongside the Thai alphabet. Whilst Chinese New Year isn’t an official holiday in Thailand, it will still be celebrated amongst those who to choose to do so and some shops will be closed.
Where: amongst Ethnic Chinese communities, Chinatown (Yaowarat) in Bangkok

Makha Puja / Makha Bucha Day

Date: March 11th, 2013
Why celebrated: This important Buddhist festival is observed on the full moon of the third lunar month – normally February. During the day practicing Buddhists attempt to purify their minds, do acts of goodness and kindness and try not to commit any sins. In the evening temples hold atmospheric candlelit processions to round off the day.
Where: Nationwide

Chakri Memorial Day

Date: April 6th, 2013
Why celebrated: Known officially as King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke the Great Day and Chakri Dynasty Memorial Day, the somewhat easier to pronounce Chakri Memorial Day commemorates the founding in 1782 of both the Chakri Dynasty and of the city of Bangkok by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke.
Where: Nationwide

Songkran – Thai New Year

Date: April 13th – 17th, 2013
Why celebrated: Songkran is the Thai New Year and is probably the most famous of all the Thai festivals. Originally images of the Buddha were bathed with water and the same ‘blessed’ water was then used to bring good fortune to family and elders by gently pouring it on their shoulders. These days however, the emphasis is on fun and Songkran is a raucous water drenched occasion. In fact you’re more likely to be shot with a super soaker water gun or have a bucket of water tipped over your head than be gently anointed!
Where: Nationwide

Labor Day

Date: May 1st, 2013
Why celebrated: Like many countries across the world, Labor Day is celebrated on the 1st of May, although to be honest, not much happens! It’s a public holiday though, so it’s a chance for office workers and government employees to take the day off and relax
Where: Nationwide

Coronation Day

Date: May 5th, 2013
Why celebrated: This special day commemorates the coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950. His royal highness is the world’s longest reigning monarch and both he and the Queen are much loved and respected by the Thai people.
Where: Nationwide

Bun Bang Fai – Rocket Festival

Dates: May 10th – 12th, 2013
Why celebrated: The rocket festival is a merit-making ceremony held by farmers in the dry Northeast of Thailand to encourage rain fall. Celebrations of this 3 day extravaganza include parades and traditional dancing. Festivities culminate in the launch of the rockets by different teams of co-workers or friends. Beware if you’re thinking of joining in as any team failing to get their rocket off the launch pad is thrown into a mud patch!
Where: Isan, particularly in Yasathon

Royal Plowing Ceremony

Date: May 11th, 2013
Why celebrated: Also known as Farmer’s Day, this is a ceremony that blesses and acknowledges the Kingdom’s many farmers who work long hours toiling the land. The date is determined astrologically and announced by the Bureau of the Royal Household when it has been decided.
Where: Bangkok

Vesak Bucha

Date: May 24th, 2013
Why celebrated: This important day is a public holiday when Buddhists commemorate the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Buddha. Falling on the full moon of the 6th lunar month – normally May – it is also designated National Tree Day.
Where: Nationwide

Inthakin Festival

Date: Not yet announced but usually end of May, 2013
Why Celebrated: Inthakin is the name given to the ‘city pillar’ in the Northern city of Chiang Mai. Said to have been erected at the founding of Chiang Mai in 1296, today the pillar is offered flowers, candles and incense in a fun 6 to 8 day celebration in which all the residents of the city take part.
Where: Chiang Mai

Phi Ta Khon Festival

Date: June 7th, 2013
Why celebrated: Also known as the Ghost Festival, Phi Ta Khon is actually a group of festivals held over three days sometime between March and July. On the first day the town’s residents ask for protection from the spirit of the Mun River, play games and hold a procession wearing masks and specially made clothing. The second day sees costume and dance contests and more parades whilst the third is dedicated to listening to sermons given by monks.
Where: Dan Sai Village, Loei Province, Isan

Pu Sae Ya Sae Festival

Date: June 23rd, 2013
Why celebrated: This animist festival takes place on Wat Doi Kham in Chiang Mai and is meant to appease the guardian spirits, Pu Sae and Ya Sae. Put simply, it involves the ritual sacrifice of buffalos and the eating of their raw flesh. Definitely one to avoid if you’re a vegetarian or animal lover!
Where: Chiang Mai

Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival

Dates: July 22nd – 23rd, 2013
Why celebrated: This popular festival celebrates the time of year when Buddhists donate items, including candles, to monks at the beginning of the rainy season. The candles are to shed light in the temple and monks’ quarters when the days may be damp and cloudy. Locals parade huge candles through the streets, with each temple and area being represented.
Where: Ubon Ratchathani Province, Isan

Vassa

Date: July 23rd, 2013
Why celebrated: Vassa takes place during the three month rainy season and is observed by Theravada Buddhists. The closest thing to compare it to would be the Christian period of Lent as some monks use this time for intensive meditation, whilst normal Buddhists may choose to give up meat, alcohol or smoking. Vassa is followed by Kathina (see above).
Where: Nationwide

Asanha Bucha

Date: July 30th, 2013
Why celebrated: Normally taking place on the full moon of the eighth lunar month, Asanha Bucha is one of the most important Theravada Buddhist festivals in the calendar. Also known as Dharma Day, it celebrates the Buddha’s first sermon where he laid out the doctrines that appeared to him during his enlightenment. Those observing the day make offerings to temples and listen to sermons given by monks.
Where: Nationwide

Eid ul-Fitr

Date: August 8th, 2013
Why celebrated: This Muslim holiday celebrates the end of the month of fasting; Ramadan. It is observed as a public holiday by Muslim Thais and the local governments in the predominantly Muslim provinces in the south of the country.
Where: Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Satun Provinces

The Queen’s Birthday

Date: August 12th, 2013
Why celebrated: Her Majesty Queen Sirikit is much revered by the Thai people and her birthday is a national holiday as well as being declared National Mother’s Day. In bigger towns and cities the streets are decorated with fairy lights in her honour, creating a beautiful atmosphere at night.
Where: Nationwide

Hungry Ghost Festival

Date: August 21st, 2013
Why celebrated: Chinese in origin, the Hungry Ghost Festival (known in Phuket as Por Tor) takes place during the traditional Chinese calendar’s Ghost Month. This is when the gates of Hell open allowing spirits to return to the land of the living. These ghosts spend the next few weeks visiting their families as well as looking for victims to feast upon. In Thailand it’s celebrated in areas with large Chinese communities, who make offerings to appease the spirits.
Where: Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

Tesagan Gin Je – Vegetarian Festival

Dates: October 5th – 11th, 2013
Why celebrated: This 9 day festival sees the devout dressing only in white and abstaining from all meat, seafood and dairy. Participating restaurants declare their involvement by hanging yellow flags outside their shops to show they are only serving vegetarian food, however it is the island of Phuket that has made the festival famous due to the most extreme of the devotees gathering there to pierce themselves through the cheeks with sharp objects and slash themselves with swords. Not for the faint of heart!
Where: Nationwide but mainly Phuket

Eid al-Adha

Date: October 15th, 2013
Why Celebrated: This is another Muslim public holiday and one which commemorates the readiness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael in a display of obedience to Allah. Again, this is observed by Thai Muslims and the local governments in the Southern provinces.
Where: Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Satun Provinces

Wan Awk Pansa

Date: October 18th, 2013
Why celebrated: This is the last day of Vassa – sometimes known as Buddhist Lent. Theravada Buddhists make boats from banana wood or bamboo and decorate them with flowers and lamps. The boats are then filled with offerings of sweets and sticky rice and floated downstream in rivers or canals in the evening.
Where: Nationwide

Naga Fireball Festival

Date: October 18th – 19th, 2013
Why celebrated: Taking place in the eleventh lunar month (October) over the course of two nights, the Naga Fireballs are unexplained balls of light that rise from the Mekong River. They are believed by many to be a demonstration of paranormal activity and if you’re a fan of weird natural phenomena it could be well worth making the trip to the Northeast.
Where: Nong Khai Province, Isan

Kathina Festival

Date: October 19th, 2013
Why celebrated: This one month long Buddhist festival is held at the end of Vassa, the 3 month period spanning the rainy season which Theravada Buddhists observe. Kathina begins after the full moon of the eleventh month in the Luna calendar – normally October. This is a time to give thanks to the monks and Lay Buddhists will express their gratitude by taking donations and new robes to their local temple.
Where: Nationwide

Chulalongkorn Day

Date: October 23rd, 2013
Why celebrated: His Majesty King Chulalongkorn is one of the most loved and respected of the former monarchs of Siam. During his 42 year long reign he established social reforms and helped Thailand take huge progressive steps, particularly in governmental issues. This public holiday commemorates his passing.
Where: Nationwide

Buffalo Racing Festival

Date: Not yet announced but will be end of October, 2013
Why celebrated: The crazy annual Buffalo Racing festival began over 100 years ago after two farmers argued who owned the fastest buffalo. What started as a ‘decider race’ has now turned into a fully-fledged festival as bare back buffalo riders stampede through downtown Chonburi in pursuit of local fame and glory!
Where: Chonburi

Yi Peng Festival

Date: November 14th, 2013
Why celebrated: Very similar to Loi Krathong, the floating flower raft festival, Yi Peng takes place just a few days before in November, although instead of rafts Thai paper sky lanterns – known as Khoom Fai – are lit and released into the night sky. Symbolizing letting go of grudges, wishes are also made for good luck and fortune. Originating in the North of the country, Chiang Mai is the best place to get a taste of this beautiful festival.
Where: Nationwide but in the North around Chiang Mai is best

Surin Elephant Round-Up

Dates: November 16th – 17th, 2013
Why celebrated: The Surin Elephant Round-up normally occurs on the third weekend of November. The people of Surin were known for being skilled elephant capturers and trainers however as the elephant became less crucial to trade their mahouts (handlers) have had to turn to new ways to make a living. The Round-Up showcases the strength and skills of these gentle giants in shows, tugs of war and even football matches.
Where: Surin Province, Isan

Loi Krathong Festival

Date: November 18th, 2013
Why celebrated: One of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals, Loi Krathong takes place on the night of the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar – usually in November. Loi means ‘to float’ and a krathong is a raft made from banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks and a candle. The candle is to praise the Buddha with light whilst the act of sending the krathong down a river symbolizes letting go of any anger or grudges you may be holding on to. Thais will sometimes cut their hair or fingernails and place them on the Krathong as a symbol of letting go of the parts of themselves they do not like. Don’t forget to make a wish too when you release your krathong into the water.
Where: Nationwide

Monkey Buffet Festival

Date: November 25th, 2013
Why celebrated: Set up to promote tourism in this region just north of Bangkok, the annual Monkey Buffet has become something of a modern tradition. Residents of Lopburi serve the town’s monkeys (of which there are many!) with buffets of freshly prepared fruit and vegetables, much to the delight of both the monkeys and the tourists!
Where: Lopburi Province

Khon Kaen Silk Festival

Date: November 29th – December 10th, 2013
Why celebrated: Despite this being a commercial festival aiming to promote the local silk industry in Khon Kaen, for 10 days at the end of November and the beginning of December, the Silk Festival has expanded to include lively parades and performances of local music.
Where: Khon Kaen, Isan

Thai Royal Guards Parade

Date: December 2nd, 2013
Why celebrated: Since 1953, the Thai Royal Guards Parade has taken place on the 2nd of every December in celebration of the King’s birthday, 3 days later on the 5th. Taking place at Bangkok’s Royal Plaza in front of Dusit Palace, the military parade symbolically pledges loyalty to the much loved royal family of Thailand and His Majesty in particular.
Where: Bangkok

The King’s Birthday

Date: December 5th, 2013
Why celebrated: As the World’s longest reigning monarch, His Majesty the King is revered by Thais all over the world. The 5th of December is a public holiday to allow people to celebrate his birthday. It is also denoted Father’s Day in honour of his Royal Highness. This part of the year is a wonderful time to be in Thailand as the streets will be hung with fairy lights and it makes the run up to Christmas even more atmospheric.
Where: Nationwide

Constitution Day

Date: December 10th, 2013
Why celebrated: December the 10th commemorates the day on which, in 1932, the first permanent public constitution was declared in Thailand. Constitution Day is now a public holiday for all citizens to enjoy.
Where: Nationwide

New Year’s Eve (Solar and Gregorian calendars)

Date: December 31st, 2013
Why celebrated: Despite Thai new year not being until April (see Songkran) Thais love to party and so fully embrace the Western calendar’s New Year’s Eve. December 31st is celebrated with parties, drinking and fireworks and is also denoted a public holiday.
Where: Nationwide

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