The people of Thailand will celebrate no less than 15 public holidays in 2013 and three of them are coming up in May. Each one of these official days off work is attached to an important date in the Thai calendar and often includes a festival, ritual or celebration.
Thailand's public holidays present the perfect opportunity to travel to the kingdom and enjoy the relaxed, festive atmosphere, especially if you can also avoid the crowds by staying in the secluded comfort of a private villa. The Thai New Year festival may have passed this month, but the rest of the year still promises plenty of down time and the national significance of many Thai holidays also makes them an additional pout of interest for visitors.
The main breaks in the working calendar take place for New Year (Dec 31), National Labour Day (May 1) and Songkran (April 13), with special holiday celebrations also added for His Majesty The King's birthday on 5 December and Her Majesty The Queen's birthday on 12 August, with these dates also marking Thai Father's day and Thai Mother's day respectively.
Below are some of the other national holidays in Thailand, some of which are yet to happen, with a brief description of what they stand for.
Makha Bucha Day (Feb 25)
Seven months after Buddha began his teachings, 1,250 monks gathered to hear him preach. Buddha ordained the attending monks and they went out into the world to explain the principles of Buddhism. This was therefore a key moment in the evolution of the Buddhist religion. Today, on the morning of Makha Bucha Day, many Thai people wake up early to give alms to monks in the streets, which is a very photogenic ritual. In the evening, temples across the land are also filled with people listening to monks preach the words of the Buddha and believers also perform a ritual known as the candle ceremony, walking clockwise around the temple three times carrying flowers, incense and a burning candle.
Chakri Day (April 6)
Chakri Day marks the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty by King Rama I in in 1782. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the 9th King of the dynasty and also well known as the longest reigning monarch in the world. Special ceremonies are held at Bangkok's famous and ornate Temple of the Emerald Buddha, as well as other temples throughout the country to mark this important day.
Coronataion Day (May 5)
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned Rama IX of Thailand on May 5, 1950. This day is celebrated annually in Thailand and begins on May 3 when Buddhist monks hold a special service at the Amarindra Vinichai Hall inside the Grand Palace. A high monk delivers a sermon, then scriptures are read in honour of the Chakri family's ancestors. On May 4th, the Chief of Thailand's Brahmin priests reads out the official proclamation of Coronation Day, then in the evening, Buddhist priests perform a chanting ceremony. On May 5, the Buddhist monks are given a feast and the Royal Thai Army and Navy each give a 21-Gun salute. Later in the day, the king awards medals and decorations to Thai citizens deemed to have provided exceptional services to the country.
Wisaka Bucha (May 24)
The most important religious holiday in the Buddhist calendar, Wisaka Bucha celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing of the Lord Buddha. According to Theravada Buddhist traditions, which are observed in many Southeast Asian countries, these three events all took place on the same day of the year. At sunrise, Thai people visit the temples to listen to revered monks and make merit. Shortly after sunset, candle-lit processions take place at major temples throughout the country. Wisaka Bucha day was also recognised by UNESCO in 1999 as a “World Heritage Day”.
Asarnha Bucha (July 22)
Asarnha Bucha Day was first celebrated officially in 1958 when the Thai government set the day as a holiday. Today, Buddhists all over the country take part in the ceremonies, which are held in temples throughout the land. Carved candles are lit and kept burning throughout Buddhist lent, with parades of candles in some Thai cities followed by beauty contests and awards for the best candle design. Monks from the local temple often walk through the town collecting alms and local people put flowers into their bowls instead of food. Asanha Bucha Day has also become a popular day for young Thai men to enter the monkhood.
Chulalongkorn day (Oct 23)
Known in Thai as "Wan Piyamaharaj Day", Chulalongkorn Day commemorates the passing of King Chulalongkorn, also known as King Rama V. This influential Thai King introduced major reforms in Thailand in areas such as education, military affairs, transport, and was perhaps most notable for the abolition of slavery. Many Thais show their respect for this legendary monarch by placing wreaths at the Equestrian Statue in Bangkok's Royal Plaza, and there are other statues of King Chulalongkorn all around the country where smaller ceremonies take place on this day.
Constitution Day (Dec 10)
The current constitution of Thailand is actually the 18th of its kind. It was ratified on August 24, 2007 after being voted in through a public referendum. The constitutional rights and freedom of the Thai people are officially based on human dignity, equality, freedom of expression and political participation. On Constitution Day, countrywide festivities see buildings decorated with national flags, portraits of the king, and fairy lights. The government also holds seminars and exhibitions to promote understanding of the constitution and provide information to show how the constitutional monarchy works. Bangkok's famous Democracy Monument is a representation of the 1932 Constitution and sits on top of two gold offering bowls.