Everyone knows Thailand as the “Land of Smiles”. The Thais are known around the world to be friendly, happy, kind, and generous. When preparing to take a trip in Thailand, there are many things to consider. The country is perfect for backpacker and sightseeing fanatics with the Elephant as the national symbol. Thailand showcases cultural and historical attractions for all visitors to enjoy. Make sure to check for any Festivals that may be going on when you travel here. The Top 5 events of the Land of Smiles are Songkran Festival, Loy Krathong, Phi Ta Khon, Monkey Buffet, Ubon Ratchatani Candle Festival.
Songkran is Thai New Year. This is the most important holiday for the Thais to celebrate with family re-unions, temple visits, and annual house cleaning. Many Thais observe the holiday by spending time with families and friends. Traditionally, Thais perform the “Rod Nam Dum Hua” ritual on the first day of Songkran, which is officially the National Elderly Day. During the ritual, young people would pour fragrant water into the elders’ palms as a gesture of humility and to ask for their blessings.
The second day of Songkran is officially the National Family Day. Families would wake up early and give alms to the Monks, ideally the rest of the day would be spent sharing quality time together. An important religious ritual on Songkran is ‘Bathing the Buddha image’, in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over Buddha statues both at the temple and at home. After the religious ceremonies, the entire country goes wild in friendly water fights and street parties that last nearly a week. Songkran is observed between the April 13th and 15th (three days national holiday), although in reality, the celebrations often last an entire week. Contrary to what you may have witnessed throughout Songkran, fun-loving Thais don’t just throw water at each other for no-good reason. The real meaning behind the splashes is to symbolically wash off all misfortunes in the past year, thus welcoming the New Year with a fresh new start. As Songkran has taken a more festive note, a bowl becomes a bucket, garden hose and water guns, and the spirit of holiday merriment is shared amongst all Thai residents and tourists alike.
This is one of the Kingdom’s oldest and best-preserved traditions. As the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (usually in mid-November) lights up the night sky, throughout the Thai kingdom, hundreds of thousands of ornately-decorated Krathong or traditional banana leaf floats are set adrift in rivers and waterways in a spell-binding ritual.
The history behind the festival is complex. Thais celebrate for many reasons- The main rice harvest season has ended and it’s time to thank the Water Goddess for a year’s worth of her abundant supply, as well as an apology for polluting the waters. Some believe that this is the time to symbolically ‘float away’ all the anger and grudges you have been holding onto, and including a fingernail or a lock of hair is seen as a way of letting go of the dark side of yourself, to start anew free of negative feelings. If your candle stays alight until your Krathong disappears out of sight, it means a year of good luck. Traditionally, Thais release their krathongs into rivers and small canals called ‘klongs’. Today, a pond or lake is also good. Many places host a string of cultural activities, such as ‘Ram Wong’ dance performances, Krathong-making competitions and a Beauty contest.
Held once a year, Phi Ta Khon is unique to the Dan Sai district in Loei Province and reflects the Isan local belief in ghosts and spirits. It is part of a grand merit-making festival known as the “Boon Luang” festival. Young men of the community dress up as “spirits” wearing long trailing costumes made from colorful strips of cloth sewn together and dance in the streets.
On last the Sunday in November every year, the Monkey Buffet Festival is quite a unique event of Thailand. A grand monkey buffet is held with 4000 kilograms of fruits, vegetables, cakes and candies in pyramid or just on a simple mat to the delight of 3000 monkeys living in the areas. The buffet is for monkeys among the ruins of the historical city of Lopburi, which is just a short distance away from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ayutthaya.
Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is the beginning of Buddhist Lent and to show the people’s commitment to the Lord Buddha. Buddhist Lent lasts for 3 months and this is when monks must stay on the Temple grounds to dedicate their efforts to studying, meditation and prayer. During their studies, people would offer them small candles as a form of gratitude. This has now transformed into a large festival where local people parade with giant candle wax sculptures. The Festival features sound and light presentations, cultural shows and displays of local artisans.