FESTIVAL AND EVENTS

 

  

Thais are fun-loving, sentimental people. Annual festivals, both commemorative and celebrative, play important roles in Thai life. Many Thai festivals are joyful, colorful events that invite visitors' participation. Others feature solemn, eminently photogenic ceremonial. Whatever their character, whether dazzling processions, Buddhist devotion, uninhibited merriment or exotic ritual, each affords the visitor pleasant memories and insights into the cultural heritage that makes Thailand Asia's most exotic country. Most festivals are connected either with Buddhism, the annual rice-farming cycle, or commemorations honoring Thai kings. Some occur on fixed dates. Others, particularly those associated with Buddhism, are determined by the lunar calendar. Many merit national holidays. Chronologically, Thailand's major festivals, and events, are as follows:

  

Makha Puja

Full-moon day, February National holiday This commemorates the occasion when 1,250 disciples spontaneously gathered to hear the Buddha preach. Merit-making, such as offering food to monks, and freeing captive birds and fishes, is interspersed with sermons throughout the day. After sunset, Buddhist monks lead the laity in a lovely triple candlelit circumambulating of Buddhist chapels throughout the kingdom. Each person silently carries flowers, glowing incense and lighted candles in homage to the Buddha, his teaching and his disciples.

 

Flower Festival

Usually early February. At Chiang Mai, 700 kilometers north of Bangkok. This annual event features displays, floral floats, and beauty contests when the province's temperate and tropical flowers are in full bloom.

  

Pattaya Festival

Early April. Thailand's premier beach resort celebrates with beauty parades, floral floats, and special events, Highlights include a spectacular beach-side firework display.

  

Songkran Festival

April 13 - 15. National holiday, April 12 14 Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year and is celebrated with special elan in Chiang Mai where because it occurs during a time of relative leisure, it becomes a 3-5 day carousel of religious merit-making, pilgrimages, beauty parades, dancing and uninhibited, good-natured water throwing.

  

Songkran Festival, Amphoe Phra Pradaeng

The second week of April. The Mon community of Phra Pradaeng district, Samut Prakan province, just south of Bangkok, celebrates Songkran with similar festivities.

   

Royal Ploughing Ceremony

Usually early May, at Bangkok's Sanam Luang. This ceremony marks official commencement of the annual rice-planting cycle. Presided over by His Majesty the King, elaborate Brahman ritual and ceremonial combine to provide predictions concerning the forthcoming rice crop.

   

Rocket Festival

The second weekend of May, and best seen in Yasothon, north-east Thailand. Prior to the annual monsoons, Northeast villagers construct gigantic rockets to fire into the sky to 'ensure' plentiful rain during the forthcoming rice season. The Rocket Festival is traditionally a period for letting off steam before arduous field work begins in earnest, and features beauty parades, folk dances, ribald and high-spirited revelry before the rockets are ceremoniously launched.

   

Visakha Puja

Full Moon day, May. National holiday. Visakha Puja is the holiest of all Buddhist holy days, and marks the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. Merit-making and ceremonial are identical to Makha Puja.

  

Fruits Fairs Countrywide

These annual fairs feature delicious provincial fruits -including rambutan, durian, jackfruits and pomeloes, and feature cultural displays, exhibitions and folk art. Major provinces that celebrate fruits fairs include Rayong, Chanthaburi, Chachoengsao and Hat Yai in Songkhla.

   

H.M. the Queen's Birthday

August 12. National holiday Nation-wide celebrations find particular focus in Bangkok where government buildings are decorated and illuminated at night with colored lights.

  

Ork Phansa & Thot Kathin

During October. Ork Phansa celebrates the end of the Rains Retreat and introduces the Kathin period when, throughout Thailand, the Buddhist laity present monks with new robes and other items deemed necessary for the monkhood's upkeep during the forthcoming monastic year.

   

Vegetarian Festival

During October. Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a vegetarian diet for nine days. The festival's first day features a parade of white-clothed devotees and several ascetic displays. 

    

Boat Races

October. The Kathin period marks the official end of the Rains Season and is the time for country fairs, many of which feature regattas. Nan, 790 kilometers north of Bangkok, has famous boat races, Other noteworthy regattas are held in Surat Thani, Phichit, Nakhon Phanom and Pathurnthani.

   

Loy Krathong

Full-moon night of November. This is Thailand's loveliest festival when under the full moon, Thais float away onto rivers and waterways, Krathongs, small lotus-shaped banana- leaf boats containing a lighted candle, glowing incense, a flower and small coin to honor, it is believed, the water spirits, and to wash away the previous year's sins.

   

Elephant Round-Up

 

Third weekend of November, Surin, north-east Thailand. Some 100 elephants participate in this popular event. Between folk dances and traditional cultural performances, these versatile behemoths star in displays of time-honored wild elephant hunts, demonstrations of intelligence, strength, gentility and obedience, and the spectacular re-enactment of a medieval war elephant parade.

   

River Kwai Bridge Week

Late November, early December, Kanchanaburi, western Thailand. Features a thrilling son et lumiere show at the world-famous bridge. Archaeological and historical exhibitions, sparkling folk culture performances and rides on trains hauled by World War II vintage steam locomotives number among other attractions.

  

H.M. the King's Birthday

December 5. National holiday. On December 3, the elite Royal Guards swear anew their allegiance to His Majesty King Bhumibhol in a colorful and stirring ceremony in Bangkok's Royal Plaza. On December 5, festivities occur throughout Thailand. Customarily, government buildings and houses are decorated with spectacular illuminations at night. Night-time Bangkok, particularly in the Ratchadamnoen Avenue and Grand Palace area, becomes a floodlit fairyland of colored lights.

   

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