National Holidays in Thailand
Thailand celebrates many traditional and modern holidays linked to important national events, and historical and religious occasions. They are not all observed as public holidays however and the majority of Thais will be at work, especially in the service industries; tourist attractions and shops are almost never closed.
Certain holidays such as Songkran are major national celebrations and well known outside Thailand. Such festivities can be very lively and interesting, providing a unique insight into Thai culture, history and people. At holiday times, many Thais take a short break and hotels and guesthouses can fill up very quickly. Alcohol sales are occasionally restricted in shops and bars, but small stores will usually sell discreetly.
The holidays and events listed below include 2011 dates, but since many holidays depend on the lunar calendar the actual dates can vary each year. When a public holiday occurs on a weekend there may be a substitution day held on the subsequent work day.
New Year’s Day (National Holiday) Date: January 1 2011: A substitution day occurs on Monday, January 3
Thais and foreigners celebrate the start of the Gregorian calendar year. This might be surprising to some since the traditional Thai Buddhist calendar is still in use today. However, the familiar Western system is used extensively throughout Thailand. New Year is always a big celebration, not least because many foreign tourists visit Thailand at this time of year and there is also a large expat community. This national holiday is also needed to recover from the party the night before.
National Children’s Day Date: Second Saturday in January 2011: January 8
Although not a national holiday, this date is celebrated all over Thailand with many activities held for children.
National Forest Conservation Day Date: January 14
The aim is to raise awareness of the importance of conservation of Thailand’s forests, woodlands and mangroves. Schools and parks often participate in activities such as hiking and bird watching, encouraging appreciation of Thailand’s precious natural resources.
Teachers’ Day Date: January 16
Teachers are highly respected in Thai society and this occasion may be observed as a holiday in some schools, allowing the teachers to have a well-deserved day off.
Elephant Duel Day Date: January 18
This day commemorates King Naresuan the Great’s famous victory on elephant-back in a duel against the Deputy King of Burma in 1593, which resulted in the latterÕs death. Fighting using elephants rather than horses was the traditional way to settle a score between ancient armies.
Royal Thai Armed Forces Day Date: January 18
Various parades at military bases around the country and abroad honour the Thai military and the present King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).
Inventor’s Day Date: February 2
Commemorates the patent registered in 1993 by King Bumibol for a paddle wheel aerator, a device which is used to keep oxygen levels high in freshwater shrimp farms. They can be seen spinning in action at places such as Sam Roi Yod National Park, where there are many shrimp farms.
Agriculture Day Date: February 2
A large section of Thai society works in agriculture, which is acknowledged on Agriculture Day. It’s not an official holiday and no doubt it’ll be business as usual for the workers.
War Veteran’s Day Date: February 3
The War Veteran’s Day recognises the contribution and sacrifices made by war veterans, and marks the establishment of the War Veterans Organisation of Thailand. Ceremonies are usually held at the Victory Monument in Bangkok.
Makha Bucha Day (National Holiday) Date: Full moon during the third Thai lunar month 2011: February 18
This national holiday is an important Buddhist celebration which reminds followers to practice good deeds and avoid sin. It honours the occasion when Buddha delivered his principles and teachings to 1250 assembled monks, which coincided with a full moon. Thais congregate at temples to light candles and take part in various religious processions.
Chinese New Year Date: First day of the Chinese calendar 2011: February 3
There is a sizeable Chinese population in Thailand and despite not being a public holiday, the New Year is widely celebrated with many Chinese residents taking holidays around this time. Visitors can enjoy noisy firecrackers, dragon dance displays, and Chinese lanterns. Families traditionally give each other money in small red envelopes to bring good luck.
The date changes yearly since the Chinese calendar is based on both lunar and solar cycles. 2011 is the year of the rabbit, which is supposed to symbolise happiness and good fortune.
Valentine’s Day Date: February 14
A fairly modern phenomenon, this worldwide and highly commercial event is observed by romantic Thais, tourists, and expats. Bars everywhere display balloons and encourage staff to wear red or pink clothing.
National Artist Day Date: February 24
Each year the National Culture Commission of Thailand awards the coveted title of National Artist to outstanding artists in categories such as dance, fine art, literature, and the visual arts.
International Women’s Day Date: March 8
Observed in over a hundred countries, Women’s Day promotes women’s rights and raises relevant issues. Men are encouraged to give women they know small gifts. As a visitor to Thailand you probably won’t notice much special happening on this day, but a few events take place such as solidarity marches and concerts advocating equality for women.
National Elephant Day Date: March 13
Elephants have a special status in Thailand, which is highlighted by this festival to raise awareness about their significance and plight. Elephants and their mahouts are blessed by monks in traditional ceremonies and the animals are given special treats. Captive and wild elephants are honoured, but the captive ones probably receive the most attention.
King Nangklao Memorial Day Date: March 31
The birthday in 1787 of King Nangklao (Rama III), the third monarch of Siam in the Chakri dynasty, is celebrated on this day. He was crowned King in 1824.
Civil Service Day Date: April 1
Commemorates the creation of the Civil Service Act on 1 April 1929, which governs the entire Thai bureaucratic system. Many government departments participate in the event and take turns to host an annual fair, to improve public understanding of the roles of civil servants. Awards are presented to outstanding civil servants, often by the Prime Minister.
Thai Heritage Conservation Day Date: April 2
On this day, Thais commemorate the birthday and work of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (the second daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej) to conserve Thailand’s cultural heritage in areas such as language, music, dance and literature.
Chakri Memorial Day (National Holiday) Date: April 6
Chakri Day commemorates the foundation of the current Chakri Dynasty in 1782. The present monarch is the ninth King (Rama IX) in the lineage. Chakri Day has great significance, as Thais hold the monarchy in very high regard. The King and other members of the Royal Family hold ceremonies to honour previous monarchs, and Thai people take part in similar events around the country.
Songkran Festival (National Holiday)Date: April 13 – 15
Songkran is a major holiday and festival in Thailand to usher in the Thai New Year. All generations take to the streets to enjoy large scale water fights with buckets, hosepipes and giant water pistols. Pickup trucks loaded with revellers and water barrels drive around soaking anyone they can. Faces are daubed with scented talcum powder, and foreigners in particular should expect to be targeted.
The celebrations normally last for three days, but can extend to six days in cities such as Chiang Mai. As well as being hugely enjoyable it’s also traditionally a time to visit relatives and pay respect to one’s elders, and many Thais visit a local temple to pray and give alms to the monks. During Songkran alcohol consumption is high and consequently road accidents greatly increase, so be especially careful on Thailand’s roads at this time.
Consumer Protection Day Date: April 30
It may come as a surprise to known that strong consumer protection laws do exist in Thailand, which are heralded on this day every year. The aim is to help Thai citizens learn more about and protect their consumer rights. There are even occasional street marches to highlight this worthy cause.
National Labour Day Date: May 1 2011: A substitution day occurs on Monday, May 2
Labour Day celebrates the importance and contribution of Thailand’s unsung workers. It’s taken as a holiday by the private sector and most banks are also closed.
Coronation Day (National Holiday) Date: May 5
Held to commemorate the coronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1950. There is usually a ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The festivities continue for three days, with the third and last day being Coronation Day on May 5.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony (National Holiday) Date: An arbitrary date in May, announced by the Bureau of the Royal Household 2011: May 13
This ceremony is held at the Sanam Luang (Royal Field) in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, and marks the official start of the rice growing season. Originating over 700 years ago, predictions are made about the quality of the coming year’s harvest. Rice seeds are blessed and at the end of the festival crowds run into the field to get the seeds, which are considered lucky. Farmer’s Day is observed on the same date.
Visakha Bucha Day (National Holiday) Date: Full moon during the sixth Thai lunar month 2011: May 17
This holiday is an important religious event to celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. Most Thais visit a local temple to make merit (giving alms to monks and praying) which can get very busy, especially in the evening when candlelit processions take place in the temple grounds.
Sunthorn Phu Day Date: June 26
Commemorates the birth of Thailand’s most well known royal poet, Sunthorn Phu, in 1786.
Mid Year Bank Holiday Date: July 1
This holiday is taken only by banks, which close everywhere. Other businesses stay open.
Asanha Bucha Day (National Holiday) Date: Full moon during the eighth Thai lunar month 2011: July 15
A religious festival celebrating the occasion when Buddha delivered his first sermon (the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta) after enlightenment. This celebration occurs one day before Buddhist Lent. Just as with other Buddhist festivals, many Thais visit local temples to make merit and join in religious processions.
Khao Phansa or Rains Retreat (National Holiday) Date: First waning moon during the eighth Thai lunar month 2011: July 16
Khao Phansa marks the first day of a three month religious period during the rainy season known as Phansa, Rains Retreat, or more informally Buddhist Lent, which is practiced by Theravada Buddhists. During this period, monks are supposed to stay in the temple grounds and avoid travelling around the country. The original purpose was that monks would not damage crops during their journeys. Some strong-willed Thais try to give up meat, alcohol and other vices during this period.
National Thai Language Day Date: July 29
This little known event helps to preserve the Thai language and celebrate its diversity. Its origin is a result of a visit by King Bhumibol to Chulalongkorn University in July 1962, to join a debate with scholars and students about the Thai language.
Her Majesty The Queen’s Birthday (National Holiday) Date: August 12
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday is a special occasion celebrated by Thais everywhere, especially around the Grand Palace in Bangkok where devoted admirers setup coloured lights, and bring portraits and flowers. Quite appropriately, this day is also Mother’s Day in Thailand.
National Science Day Date: August 18
This day commemorates King Mongkut’s (Rama IV) accurate predication of a total solar eclipse which occurred on 18 August 1868 in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
National Youth Day Date: September 20
Youth Day pays tribute to the achievements and potential of young people. Awards are made to outstanding and talented youth by members of the Thai Royal Family.
Mahidol Day Date: September 24
Commemorates the death of Prince Mahidol Adulyadej in 1929. He was the father of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is considered by many to be the father of modern Thai medicine. He also studied public health and medicine at Harvard University.
National Police Day Date: October 13
The Royal Thai Police celebrate this event with various ceremonies and presentations, in an attempt to increase cooperation with the public and bring attention to the ongoing fight against crime.
National Nurses Day Date: October 21
All Thai nurses rejoice on this special occasion to celebrate the birthday of the Queen Mother Princess Srinagarindra, who was a qualified a nurse and made many contributions to public health, medicine, social welfare and education.
Chulalongkorn Day (National Holiday) Date: October 23 2011: A substitution day occurs on Monday, October 24
Also known as Rama V Day, this date commemorates the death of King Chulalongkorn in 1910, who is credited as modernising and reforming Thai society and ensuring that Thailand was never colonised by foreign nations. Known as the Great Beloved King, he passed laws to abolish slavery completely in 1905.
Loi Krathong Date: Full moon during the eleventh Thai lunar month 2011: November 10
Loi Krathong is an annual festival in which a krathong (a tiny floating boat) made from bread, banana leaves or foam is elaborately decorated with banana leaves, candles and a small coin, and placed on nearby rivers, lakes and ponds to pay respect to ancient water spirits. This festival culminates at night when thousands of krathongs are released, and fireworks and lanterns are lit. Nowadays it’s really an excuse to have fun with family and friends.
Vajiravudh Day Date: November 25
This date commemorates the death of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1925. He is renowned for promoting Siamese nationalism and bringing in cultural reforms. He oversaw the development of Thailand’s railways, and founded Chulalongkorn University in 1917 to honour his father, Rama V. He is also credited with creating the Scout Order of Thailand.
Damrong Rajanubhab Day Date: December 1
This date commemorates the death of Prince Damrong Rahanubhab (son of Rama IV) who died on December 1, 1943. He is regarded as the father of Thai history and founder of the modern Thai education system.
Thai Environment Day Date: December 4
To increase awareness of environmental and green issues, Thai Environment Day encourages people to ride a bike, plant a tree and get involved in other eco-friendly activities.
His Majesty The King’s Birthday (National Holiday) Date: December 5
The esteemed King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) celebrates his birthday today, as do Thais everywhere. He is the world’s longest reigning monarch and is greatly praised and admired by Thai people, as evident by the enthusiastic annual celebrations as well as the ubiquitous portraits, car stickers and T-shirts that proudly proclaim “We Love The King”. Thais sometimes wear yellow on this day as he was born on a Monday (each day of the week is traditionally associated with a specific colour in Thailand), which also happens to be the day it falls on in 2011. This date also marks Father’s Day and National Day.
Constitution Day (National Holiday) Date: December 10 2011: A substitution day occurs on Monday, December 12
Celebrates the first Thai constitution which was created in 1932, to mark the transition from absolute monarchy to democracy. Since 1932, Thailand has had seventeen charters and constitutions in place, an unavoidable result of frequent political instability.
National Sports Day Date: December 16
King Bhumibol is an accomplished yachtsman and won a gold medal in sailing at the 1967 Southeast Asian Games. National Sports Day is an annual tribute to this victory, and aims to encourage wider uptake of all sports.
King Taksin Memorial Day Date: December 28
On 28 December 1768, Taksin was crowned King of Siam aged only 34, an occasion honoured on this day every year. Among his achievements, he is credited with creating the new capital of Thonburi after liberating Siam from Burmese invaders.
New Year’s Eve (National Holiday) Date: December 31
A nationwide holiday and precursor to New Year’s Day, this public holiday is enjoyed with much commotion by many Thais and foreigners. At popular tourist destinations there are always massive street celebrations, especially around the bars. The parties, fireworks, and feasts continue late into the night.