Thailand Holidays and Traditions You Don't Want to Miss

A community celebrating Thailand holidays and traditions
Thailand holidays and traditions are events to behold.

Holidays are a great excuse to travel to a foreign country and encounter the culture firsthand. Whether it’s to commemorate a moment in history or to simply celebrate and let loose as a community, a national holiday is also a tourist attraction.

Thailand has some of the most public holidays of any country in the world.

Each holiday highlights Thai philosophies, culture, and lifestyle. Some follow the Western calendar, while others are based on the lunar calendar. Should the holiday fall on a weekend, the next working day becomes the new holiday date.

If you’re interested in learning about Thai culture or want to know the best time to travel to the Land of Smiles, it’s helpful to know about the country’s traditions and holidays.

Here are some of the most important Thailand holidays and traditions you may not want to miss.

1. Western New Year

Here’s an interesting fact: Thailand celebrates the New Year three times. One of these is the Western New Year celebration, which falls on January 1st.

The festivities usually begin with a countdown on the night of December 31st. Many venues around the country host countdown events with performances and fireworks. Things become more calm on the first morning of the New Year, with many people visiting Buddhist temples for offerings and prayers.

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2. Children’s Day

Children are much beloved in Thai society. Therefore, every second Saturday of January is dedicated to Children’s Day.

On this holiday, families give gifts to their children and treat them to a day out. Children also receive gifts from their teachers and perform in front of their classes.

Children below a certain height are also given free admission to public transportation. Even the Thai army joins in on the festivities, opening their bases’ doors around the capital to let kids tour and observe the sights; they may even allow them to climb a few tanks.

3. Chinese New Year

Thailand has a large Chinese community, especially in cities like Phuket and Bangkok. As a result, Chinese New Year has become a huge celebration in the country.

Locals participating in a parade
While in the Land of Smiles, take time to participate in public holidays in Thailand.

Chinese New Year in Thailand normally falls in January or February. As this holiday rolls in, the narrow alleys of Yaowarat (Bangkok’s Chinatown) become densely packed with crowds and filled with bright red Chinese lanterns. Sumptuous food, lion and dragon dance performances, and fireworks make the occasion extra festive.

Bangkok isn’t the only Thai city that hosts Chinese New Year festivities. As mentioned earlier, Phuket also has a notable Chinese population. You can even spot celebrations in places like Trang, Nakhon Sawan, and Songkhla.

4. Chakri Day

Among the many holidays on the Thai calendar, this one is particularly significant.

Every April 6th, Thais celebrate Chakri Memorial Day, which marks the founding of the royal Chakri Dynasty. Schools, financial institutions, and government offices close for a day for this commemorative tradition. And with that, thousands of Thais show their patriotism as they pay homage to the country’s previous leaders.

On this holiday, the king and other royal family members lead the honorary ceremony for past kings. The king also visits the Royal Pantheon, which houses life-size statues of previous monarchs. He then makes a wreath offering to King Rama I’s statue and pays respects to the other kings.

5. Songkran (Thai New Year)

This next event is one of the more popular public holidays in Thailand.

Songkran is a three-day celebration marking the Thai New Year. It also signals the end of the hot season and the start of the rainy season.

The holiday falls three days after Chakri Day, which may explain the perenially huge crowds. Water is the theme of the holiday because of its association with purity, fertility, and rain for a great harvest.

Perhaps what makes Songkran one of the more recognizable Thai holidays and traditions is the water fights. People splash water on each other through water guns, buckets, and hoses.

Person pouring water on a Buddha statue
Songkran happens three days after Chakri Day, which may explain the presence of huge crowds.

The splashing isn’t solely for amusement. It also symbolizes the cleansing of misfortunes, allowing people to welcome the New Year with a fresh start. This cleansing is also why people bathe their Buddha images, so don’t be surprised to see wet Buddha statues this time of year.

6. Visakha Puja

Buddhist holidays comprise a significant portion of the Thai calendar. Thais dedicate six designated days to commemorate the deity, one of which is Visakha Puja.

It is a religious holiday where Thai Buddhists commemorate the three major events of Buddha’s life: his birth, enlightenment, and death. All three transpired on a full moon in the sixth lunar month, which is the holiday’s designated date.

Thai Buddhists celebrate Visakha Puja by visiting temples and making merit. They also extend their efforts to helping less fortunate people, honoring Buddhist teachings.

7. Wan Khao Phansa (Buddhist Lent)

This holiday is solemn and reflective in comparison with most other Thai holidays, which are mainly celebratory in nature.

Buddhist Lent (Wan Khao Phansa) is three months of meditation, prayer, teaching, and studying. Thai Buddhist monks avoid traveling during this period. Previously, they weren’t even allowed to leave their temples because they wished to avoid killing insects and damaging farmlands. Nowadays, people can see them going about their days.

Throughout this quarter, Buddhists across the country visit temples and offer monks large candles. This ritual serves two purposes. First, the candles help the monks study during dark nights, and second, the candles also symbolize bright futures.

8. Loy Krathong (Festival of Lights)

Loy Krathong is another popular Thai holiday. It may not have a fixed date, but it’s usually one of the anticipated events in Thailand in November.

When the full moon of the 12th lunar month arrives, locals gather around their nearest river, lake, or swimming pool to release krathongs (small candlelit baskets). This gesture is a sign of gratitude to the local water goddess.

Person lighting a candle in a basket
Loy Krathong is one of the events in Thailand in November to look forward to.

The krathongs aren’t just a symbol of gratitude. The act of releasing them also represents letting go of one’s misfortunes. If a krathong’s candle stays lit until it disappears from your line of sight, it’s a sign of good fortune for the next year.

9. King’s Birthday

Most nations celebrate their countries’ Independence Day. However, Thailand is different. Instead of holding a Thai Independence Day, this Southeast Asian nation honors its most beloved figure.

Every December 5, citizens celebrate the birthday of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand’s longest-reigning monarch. Per the Royal Thai Government, it is the National Day of Thailand.

Festivities start with a prayer ceremony at Bhumibol Bridge. Merit-making ceremonies follow at the Grand Palace, which are overseen by the current monarch. The entire country wears yellow, the king’s color.

These are just a few of the many Thailand holidays and traditions locals and tourists can look forward to annually. Don’t hesitate to experience them when you’re in the country.

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