Thailand offers an unforgettable cultural experience and tropical beauty, so being well informed of their holidays and festivals will only heighten the experience further.
The Yi Peng Lantern Festival takes place every year during Loi Krathong, providing a stunning spectacle featuring thousands of illuminated lanterns (Khom loy).
Songkran, or the Thai New Year, is celebrated over three days each April and is widely considered one of the most festive and enjoyable celebrations for locals and visitors alike, encompassing family, religion and community spirit while providing opportunities for water-related activities to take place during this festive period.
Maha Songkran or Wan Payawan begins on 13 April and serves as an international religious holiday when people visit temples to pay homage to Buddha images, monks, elders and pay their respects. Additionally, today is also used to prepare homes and public spaces for Songkran festivities by cleaning.
On April 14th, Songkran festivities officially start. Songkran means ‘change” or “transformation,” and is intended to wash away any bad luck from last year and bring good fortune into next year. Locals use this day as a chance to clean their homes and businesses as well as spend time with family.
As part of the festival celebrations, other rituals are observed as well, such as giving money and food to elderly and poor individuals, offering food to monks, cleaning temples and visiting family members. Many young people travel back home to meet older relatives and celebrate together while Buddhists typically pour scented water on hand-carved Buddha images to show respect and wish for good fortune in the new year.
Water throwing and fighting may be its signature features of Songkran, but this holiday is rich with traditions that hold great meaning for Thai culture as a whole. Songkran draws both locals as well as visitors from across the globe in celebration.
Songkran offers an unforgettable way to experience Thailand, from raucous foam parties on Bangkok’s Khao San Road to family-oriented celebrations in northern Chiang Mai; Songkran provides the chance of an incredible journey that won’t soon be forgotten! Don’t miss your chance – be there at this exciting festival and celebrate Songkran with us!
Maka Bucha Day
Makha Bucha Day is one of the country’s premier Theravada Buddhist holidays, held annually on the full moon of the third lunar month – typically February or March (in leap years, it occurs on the fourth). Thais take this national holiday as an opportunity to travel and visit temples for religious ceremonies and merit-making activities – many also abstain from alcohol and recreational drugs while adhering to their 5 and 8 moral precepts as dictated by Buddhist practice.
“Makha” refers to the third lunar month; while “bucha” comes from Pali puja, which means to honor or venerate. This distinction makes sense as this holiday commemorates an encounter between Buddha and 1,250 of his disciplines which occurred on this auspicious full-moon day.
This event was pivotal to the evolution of Buddhism as we know it today. First, it marked the commencement of a dialogue between Buddha and his disciples; secondly, its discussion resulted in Ovadhapatimokha; this text contains 227 rules of monastic discipline which still govern Theravada Buddhism today; thirdly, on this date Buddha predicted his own death within three months and entered nirvana.
As such, Makha Bucha Day has come to be considered a holy day among Theravada Buddhists and is celebrated across most temples – particularly urban ones – with festivities and merit-making activities, particularly offering food, flowers, candles to monks for blessings from them.
Every year in Prachin Buri province near Bangkok, an annual Makha Bucha fair takes place that features lantern releases into the night sky as well as traditional procession of sanded rice and flower garlands. Not only is this event an important symbol of Buddhism faith but it is also an opportunity for local communities to come together and honor their culture and history.
Wing Kwai Festival
Wing Kwai Festival, commonly referred to as the Buffalo Racing Festival, is one of the more unique Thailand events that is unmissable when visiting this beautiful nation. Held at the end of Awk Phansa or Buddhist Lent, it began as a fun pastime among farmers but has evolved into an organised two-week extravaganza that draws crowds from all across Thailand.
Loy Krathong falls near the same time as Yi Peng Lantern Festival and Loy Krathong; both events date back to Lanna Kingdom during late 13th Century and commemorate end of rainy season with festivities like lighting lanterns to honor Buddha in their homes and temples, sky lantern releases as symbolic gesture of letting go of bad memories, making wishes for better times, etc.
At this festival there are numerous rituals performed including piercing cheeks and arms with all manner of objects, cutting, skinning and walking barefoot over burning coals – although these might seem disturbing, wounds heal quickly without lasting scars remaining; additionally it makes for a lively festival full of music, dance and processions!
Songkran may be Thailand’s best-known festival and largest water fight, but Wing Kwai offers just as much excitement and is an invaluable opportunity to experience local culture in Thailand from another perspective.
Although some events at this festival can be intense and not suitable for everyone, it provides an incredible opportunity to meet and learn more about Thai people and culture. You will surely leave with many lasting memories! Be sure to book flights and hotels well ahead of time if you wish to attend this outstanding celebration of Thai heritage – Happy Holidays!
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
One of the more remarkable festivals in Thailand is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, while it may appear strange or macabre to some, it’s actually a religious observance meant to honor Nine Emperor Gods. Devotees use blades, iron rods and even swords to puncture themselves repeatedly during this mesmerizing and strange ceremony that lasts over nine days and involves massive street processions from shrine to shrine throughout town.
This festival is not for the faint-hearted or tourists; instead it is an intense spectacle filled with flagellation and self-mutilation as masong (devotees who allow spirits to possess them) engage in painful acts while in trance-like states; these include puncturing cheeks, arms, and bodies with sharp metal skewers and climbing bladed ladders that reach eight meters in height – believing their gods protect them from experiencing any discomfort while they make sacrifices at this festival.
Observant Taoists also forgo animal products during this festival to demonstrate that they are offering themselves up as offerings to the gods in return for good fortune and will pierce their faces to show this sacrifice. Though some may find this blood thirsty or disturbing, this ancient custom dates back over 200 years.
At each participating shrine, lantern Go Teng poles will be released, followed by firecrackers and fireworks to honor the Nine Emperor Gods, followed by solemn prayers until late into the evening at participating shrines.
Other rituals and ceremonies at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival include food offerings, worshipping rituals, bladed ladder climbing, fire walking and oil bathing – among many other interesting activities. Please be warned: many of these activities can be dangerous and not suitable for acrophobes or those fearful of pain and discomfort – however this spectacle should definitely make its way onto your bucket list if you appreciate strange cultural traditions!