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!
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.