Annual Festivals in Chiang Mai

March 2016


New Year’s Day 2017 วันปีใหม่

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The first day of the new year according to the Gregorian calendar. Thailand has its traditional festival for their new year in April, but January 1 has also become a time to celebrate. Most people will enjoy this as a long weekend since New Year’s Day (also a holiday) is on the following Monday in 2017.

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival

January 13-15, 2017 (expected date)

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival is a three-day festival where the streets of Bo Sang Village are filled with laterns and hundreds of handmade umbrellas and parasols, which are brightly coloured, and often decorated with floral motifs. Bo Sang Village is about 4 hours by bus from Chiang Mai.

The legend states that a monk was traveling to Myanmar where he learned how to create Saa paper umbrellas that protected him. He brought this technique to the Bo Sang village where it became an important way to make money. This event has now transformed to a large community even with bands, food festivals, and much more including the Miss Bo Sang beauty pageant.

Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day  วันตรุษจีน

January 28–30, 2017

The Chinese New Year is celebrated in many parts of Thailand where there are Chinese communities. This festival always takes place on the first day of the first lunar month so it changes every year according to the Western Calendar.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

February 3–5, 2017 (to be confirmed)

The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is a parade that embraces nature’s gift of blooming flowers. Visitors to the event get to enjoy parades, Miss Chiang Mai Flower competition, exhibitions, and of course plenty of flowers. The festival happens in early February right after plants are in full bloom where people enjoy an abundance of decorative plants and beautiful flowers.

In Chiang Mai, Suan Buak Hat Park is filled with floral beauty, agricultural displays, contests, and selling stalls. The flower festival is a wonderful opportunity to experience the grace of Thailand’s natural beauty.

Makha Bucha Day วันมาฆบูชา

Monday, February 11, 2017

This important Buddhist holiday commemorates a sermon the Buddha gave to his most advanced students. This event is said to have happened when all of these followers just happened to end up in the same location as the same time.

Maka Bucha is a national holiday in Thailand and is celebrated each year on the first full moon of the third lunar month (date depends on Lunar cycle). The holiday may also be known as Magha Puja. In Thailand, the sale of alcohol is banned on religious holidays so all bars, clubs and pubs are closed the entire day.

Seven months after Buddha began his teachings, on the full moon of the third lunar month called Tabodwe, 1,250 monks gathered to hear Buddha preach. Buddha ordained these monks and thus began the spread the principles of Buddhism. This marked a key event in the development of the religion. 45 years later, on the same full moon in the third lunar month, Buddha once again delivered his teachings shortly before his death.

This third lunar month on which both events occurred is known in Buddhist Pali language as ‘Makha’. ‘Bucha’, means to honour. Despite the great age of these events (Buddha was teaching over 2,500 years ago), Makha Bucha only became a holiday in 1957. Before that, the third lunar month was celebrated as a Buddhist Holy Day.

Many Thai people wake up early on this day to give alms to monks. In the evening, temples are full of people listening to sermons. They often perform a ritual known as the the candle ceremony where they walk clockwise three times around the temple. holding flowers, incense and a lighted candle.

Chakri Day วันจักรี

Wednesday, April 6 2016

Chakra Day is a national public holiday held every April 6 in Thailand that celebrates the current Royal dynasty. If April 6 falls on a weekend, the following Monday is taken as a substitute holiday. Government offices, schools, and banks close, but most other businesses open as usual on this day.

Officially known as ‘King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke the Great Day and Chakri Dynasty Memorial Day’, Chakri Day commemorates the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty by Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) in 1782.

One of King Rama’s first acts was to make Krung Thep (modern day Bangkok) the capital of Siam. Chakri day commemorates the coronation of Rama I but it is also a day for the people of Thailand to recognise the contributions of all the kings in the dynasty. The current and ninth King (Rama IX) of the dynasty is King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is the longest reigning monarch in the world.

On this day, The King, accompanied by other members of the royal household, presides over the religious ceremonies held at the royal chapel. Here he pays respect to his predecessors at the Royal Pantheon, which contains life-size statues of the first eight kings of the Chakri dynasty, and will lay a wreath at the statue of King Rama I at the Memorial Bridge.

As this holiday always falls a few days before the three day Songkran festival, it is also an opportunity for many people to travel in preparation for the Songkran festivities

Songkran วันสงกรานต์ – Water Festival (Thai New Year)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 to Friday, April 15, 2016

Songkran is arguably the best time of year to be in Thailand as this is the time of the Songkran festival. This is a time for water fights, parties, and spending time with family. Though the celebration is country-wide (actually throughout much of the Mekong region), Chiang Mai is a well-known venue for travelers to experience this.

The word Songkran is from the Sanskrit language and means the passage of the sun from one sign of the Zodiac to another. That means there are twelve Songkrans each year, but the significance of the this Songkran (sometimes called Major Songkran to distinguish it from the others) is when the sun enters the sign of Aries the Ram.\

The most famous aspect of the Songkran celebrations is the throwing of water, a custom originating from spring cleaning aspect of Songkran. Part of the ritual was the cleaning of images of Buddha and using the ‘blessed’ water that cleaned the images to soak other people is seen as a way of paying respect and bring good fortune.

Nowadays Thais will walk the streets having ‘water fights’ using containers of water or water guns, or stand at the side of roads with a hose and soak any one who passes by. You may also get covered in chalk, a custom originating from the chalk used by monks to mark blessings.

Labor Day วันแรงงานแห่งชาติ

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Labor Day is a public holiday in Thailand, but not much happens to commemorate this day other than most government and office workers will have the day off. In 2016 because the 1st falls on a Sunday, an extra holiday will be added on Monday, May 2.

Coronation Day วันฉัตรมงคล

Thursday, May 5, 2016

This national holiday is held annually on May 5. If May 5 falls on a weekend, the holiday is observed on the following Monday. The coronation ceremony first took place at the start of the reign of King Rama IV in 1851. Known in Thai as ‘Wan Chattra Mongkhon’, this holiday marks the coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej has reigned Thailand since 9 June 1946, when he beacme king following the death of his brother. Nearly four years after becoming King Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned Rama IX of Thailand in the Grand Palace on 5 May 1950, making him the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty. He is the world’s longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch ever in Thailand’s history.

The ceremony takes place over three days. It begins on May 5 when Buddhist monks hold a service in honour of the Chakri dynasty in the Grand Palace. Following a feast for the monks, the coronation ceremony takes place, which is also celebrated with a 21 gun salute at noon. It is a tradition on this day that the King presents awards to those who have made a valuable contribution to Thailand.

The next day, the head of the Brahmin pries will read out the official proclamation of the coronation.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony วันพืชมงคล

Not yet set for 2016

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony. The actual date is decided each year by astrologers, but it usually occurs at some point in May. This holiday is also a commemoration of Farmer’s Day.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is an ancient rite observed in Thailand and Cambodia to mark the traditional beginning of the rice-growing ceremony. It takes place during the sixth Thai lunar month, but the actual date of the ceremony is not fixed exactly. It has to be announced by the astrologers at the Bureau of the Royal Household. Once it has been announced, the Cabinet will approve a public holiday for that date. This public holiday is also sometimes referred to as Thai Farmer’s Day. (Wikipedia)

Rocket Festival บุญบั้งไฟ – Isaan

Friday, May 6 to Tuesday, May 10, 2016 (estimated date)

The Rocket Festival is celebrated in a number of locations in Isaan but one of the best places to visit would be Yasothon. Udon Thani and Khon Kaen also have good sized celebrations. There are parades on the 9th and 10th and the 11th has the rocket firing contest between Thailand and teams from other countries (Japan, Korea, Laos and Vietnam).

Visaka Bucha วันวิสาขบูชา

Friday, May 20 2016

The most important of all the Buddhist festivals in Thailand, Wisaka Bucha Day takes place on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, and it commemorates the day on which the Buddha was born, became enlightened, and died.

Inthakin City Pillar Festival บูชาเสาอินทขีล

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 to Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Inthakin City Pillar Festival takes place over the course of 8 days in Chiang Mai each year. Inthakin begins on the 12th day of the waning 6th lunar month. This is a uniquely Chiang Mai event that should not be missed and takes place on the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang.

Pu Sae Ya Sae Festival สืบสานประเพณีเลี้ยงดง

Wednesday, 01 June, 2016 (expected date)

The Pu Sae Ya Sae Festival in Chiang Mai involves a ritual sacrifice and the consumption of raw buffalo flesh. This is not a good event for the squeamish or animal lovers. This takes place on the full moon of the seventh lunar month

Phi Ta Khon – Ghost Festival ผีตาโขน

Date TBD

The Ghost Festival is a three day festival that takes place in Dan Sai in Loei province. The exact date of this festival is decided by spirit doctors, but it is usually the first weekend after the 6th Full moon of the year, in 2015 this is from the 26th to the 28th of June in 2015.

Asana Bucha วันอาสาฬหบูชา

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Asana Bucha commemorates the day on which the Buddha gave his first sermon. This is held on the full moon of the 8th Thai lunar month.

Wan Khao Pansa วันเข้าพรรษา

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This date marks the beginning of Buddhist lent. Wan Khao Pansa takes place at the first day of the waning moon of the eight Thai lunar month.

(Chinese) Hungry Ghost Festival วันสารทจีน

Thursday, 18 August, 2016 (Expected Date)

The Hungry Ghost Festival takes place on the full moon (fifteen day) of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese lunar calendar (usually in August). This festival is celebrated in the towns and cities of Phuket, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Chiang Rai, and most places with a Chinese community. In Phuket this is called Por Tor and is a unique celebration.

H.M. The Queen’s Birthday วันแม่

Friday, 12 August, 2016

Wednesday, 12 August, 2015 is the Queen’s birthday, and it is also Mother’s Day in Thailand. Most Thai people celebrate the occasion by spending time with their families. Monday, 11, August, 2014 will also be an official holiday, creating a long 4-day weekend for those with government jobs.

Festival of Offerings to the Dead (Sart Thai) วันสาทรไทย

* Sunday, 23 August 2015 to 12 September, 2015
* Saturday, 01 October, 2016

Starting on the ninth day of the waxing of the 10th lunar month of the Thai calendar, there is a festival that is not well-known to foreigners, though sometimes it is confused with a non-Thai festival, the Chinese Hungry Ghost festival. The Thai festival is known by different names in different parts of Thailand. In the South of Thailand this is called งานบุญเดือนสิบ (ngan boon duan sib) also called ประเพณีสารทเดือนสิบ (bra pae nee sat duan sib). In the North the name of the festival is ประเพณีตานก๋วยสลาก (bra pae nee da guay sla). In Isaan this is called การทำบุญแจกข้าว (gan tam boon jag khao). In Central Thailand it is not a specific celebration as in the other parts of Thailand.

The English Wikipedia calls this Sat Thai but this is not really used by Thai people to refer to the festival, and it is incorrect to say it is the start of the vegetarian festival. Again, this celebration is still little-known in the non-Thai-speaking world and because it is more of a provincial celebration, there are no large, photogenic activities in Bangkok to provide international exposure (and English translation).
The festival can go until the third day of the waxing of the eleventh lunar month. Traditionally, families come together and visit their local temple and give offerings to their deceased relatives. Also they may give offerings to deceased people to whom they are not related, especially praet, the giant ghosts with small mouths who are always hungry. The offerings are special food which have special meaning, representing clothes, money, jewelry, transportation, and shelter.

This is somewhat similar, but different from the Chinese Hungry Ghost festival (similar in offering food to the deceased relatives and other dead). However, this is not a Chinese festival, but regional Thai festival with local celebrations. Celebrations are bigger in the South, especially in Nakhon Si Thammarat. The 12th through 14th days of the waning of the 10th lunar month are the most important in the festival. In the South there are large parades and other activities.
* In 2015, these are on 10-12 September

Mid Autumn (Moon) Festival เทศกาลไหว้พระจันทร์

Thursday, 15 September 2016

This Mid Autumn Festival takes place on the full moon closest to the autumn equinox. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is celebrated with Chinese communities across Thailand. Shops will sell special moon cakes to mark the occasion.

Vegetarian Festival 2015 วันกินเจ

Date of Year 2016 still TBA

The Thailand Vegetarian Festival 2015 takes place for nine days. (Some Thai people will hold the precepts for a total of 10 days.) This festival officially starts on 13 October, but some events begin a day or two before, and can continue a day after, depending on the temples and organizing committee involved. The date is calculated as the 15th day of the waning of the 10th month of the Thai lunar calendar.

The most extreme form of the vegetarian festival is in Phuket where it takes on a macabre aspect and has its own history and traditions. In general, throughout Thailand this is a spiritual festival with abstinence and purity as the central motif. While vegetarian food is widely available throughout Thailand, special menus and dishes are prepared and available for the nine-day festival in many restaurants throughout Thailand. Vegetarianism includes avoidance of certain vegetables such as garlic and onion which are seen to increase agitation. The festival has its roots in Chinese Taoist practices but has become Thai-ified and welcomed by the Thai Buddhist population who (to some degree) also embrace vegetarianism.

Prince Mahidol Day วันมหิดล

Saturday, 24 September, 2016

This commemorates the father of modern Thai medicine Prince Mahidol. It is not an official public holiday.

Wan Awk Pansa วันออกพรรษา

Sunday, 16 October, 2016

Wan Awk Pansa signals the end of Buddhist rains retreat. This falls on the full moon of the eleventh Thai lunar month.

Thod Kathin ทอดกฐิน

Monday, 17 October, 2016

Thod Kathin or Kathina is held on the first day after the full moon of the eleventh Thai lunar month. This is celebrated by colorful processions and temple activities especially in parts of Northeastern Thailand and Laos. The presentation of Monks’ robes after the rains retreat is the central Buddhist activity. Note that Kathin is a lunar month-long event that takes place throughout Thailand where people return to their families and go to the Temple events as well as local gatherings.

Naga Fireball Festival บั้งไฟพญานาค

Saturday 15 October to Sunday, 16 October, 2016

The Naga Fireball Festival takes place in Nong Khai around the full moon of the eleventh lunar month (October). This demonstration of what many believe is evidence for the paranormal goes on for two nights. The dates coincide with the day before and the day of the Buddhist holiday of Wan Awk Pansa, the end of the rains retreat.

Chulalongkorn Day วันปิยมหาราช

Sunday, 23 October, 2016 (Substitution holiday will likely be Monday, 24 October, 2016)

Friday, 23 October, 2015 is Chulalongkorn Day, and this commemorates one of the most revered of past Thai rulers. King Chulalongkorn is credited with keeping Thailand free while most of the surrounding counties fell under the power of foreign control.

Loy Krathong/Yee Peng 2016

November 14–16, 2016 (Lantern Day is November 15)

Loy Krathong/Yee Peng is one of the most beautiful of all Thai festivals. Loy Krathong is not a public/official holiday (though there very public events). Rather, it is meant as a time for families and friends to come together in the evening to launch small candle lit craft (Krathong) in lakes and rivers, and floating lanterns into the sky. In Chiang Mai events usually begin two days before and extend one day after the holiday. It is not an official Thai government holiday but, especially in Northern Thailand, it is a major holiday. This is on the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the 12th lunar month of the Thai calendar (the second lunar month of the Northern Thai calendar, Yee Peng means second month in Kam Muang, the Northern Thai language).

Surin Elephant Festival

Friday-Tuesday, 13-24 November 2015

The Surin Elephant festival, which is usually the third week of November, spans from 13-24 of November.

Lopburi Sunflower Festival

The Lopburi Sunflower Festival can be found in Lopburi, Central Thailand and nearby Saraburi. This festival doesn’t have exact dates, and begins when the weather and the sunflowers announce the beginning. The sunflower fields are an attraction for many Thai visitors as well as foreign tourists beginning in November and can last until January or even February.

H.M. The King’s Birthday

Monday, 05 December, 2016

Saturday, 05 December, 2015 is the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumipol. It is also Father’s Day in Thailand.

Constitution Day

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Constitution Day marks the day in 1932 when Thailand become a constitutional monarchy. (Substitution holiday will likely be Monday, 12 December, 2016)

Christmas Day

Sunday, 25 December, 2016

Christmas Day is not a public holiday in Thailand, but it is celebrated as in most of the world as a secular holiday with festive decorations in the shopping malls. Many of the restaurants and pubs in tourist areas will have traditional holiday food and events to mark the occasion.

New Year’s Eve

Saturday, 31 December, 2016 (Substitution holiday will likely be Monday, 02 January, 2017)

New Year’s Eve is a public holiday in Thailand to mark the new year. As new year’s day is also a holiday, this is a two-day event. It is possible that Monday, December 30th will be considered a holiday as well (officially or unofficially) as it is a single day straddling two sets of two days off. This could easily turn into a five day weekend.