Thailand is a country that enjoys holiday vibes. Many people in Thailand consider gathering together and having fun to be a major part of their culture. It is no surprise that there are all kinds of festivals all year round in Thailand, most of which take place in temples. This really shows how Thailand has intermingled its diverse cultures and religions. So we've made this list for you to find out the most celebrated festivals which are worth visiting and suitable for tourists. Some celebrations are held nationwide while some are held in some cities or villages, so make sure you plan your Thailand tour well before you head out! It is also notable that many festivals are celebrated based on the lunar calendar, so the exact date varies each year.
Songkran Festival (Water Festival)
When it comes to Thailand, most people would be familiar with Songkran Festival, which takes place from April 13th to the 15th annually. It is also called the Water Festival, which literally means getting poured. On the first day, there will be an ebullient ceremony where the images of Buddha will be relayed throughout the country. The second day is old Thai New Year's Eve when sand chedis are built by Buddhists. The third day marks Thai New Year’s Day when many people will leave offerings at temples. During these three days, lots of other events will also be taking place, with different rituals in different cities.
Phi Ta Khon (Ghost Festival)
Different from western Halloween, the Ghost Festival involves people dressing up in ghost masks with long noses on which people can draw their patterns. It is a regional celebration taking place in the agriculturally centered Dan Sai district in July. It is worth noticing that this festival contains sexual connotations since most of the costumes will image of reproductive organs. Dancing and parading around the town, all these activities add spice to life. These events, combined with plenty of alcohol, create a festive atmosphere. Willing to share the features of their culture with you, the local people are always enthusiastic and hospitable.
Yi Peng (The Lantern Festival)
Yi Peng was traditionally set up to symbolize the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the cool season, which takes place on the full moon night of November in the Western calendar. In ancient times, this festival was a tradition to honor Buddha in order to gain merit, but now it has turned into hoping for good luck in the coming year. There are plenty of events that happen during the festival, with the most famous one being launching lanterns into the sky. Apart from that, you can also enjoy parades and live music. If you want to enjoy the festival like the locals, it is better for you to join in the celebrations in Chiang Mai since it is mainly celebrated in the northern part of Thailand.
Chinese New Year
Thailand is also a multicultural country. Due to the large Chinese population and people of Chinese descent, the Spring Festival is also regarded as one of the major holidays in Thailand. Based on Chinese tradition, it falls on the first day of the lunar calendar. During the Spring Festival, you will see red things everywhere, such as red Spring Festival couplets, red window cuts, and so on, because red symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture. At that time, you can find the market in Bangkok's Chinatown, where people sell all kinds of things related to Chinese New Year. Just like in China, people would clean their houses, give red envelopes to juniors and elders, and hang up red lanterns. The whole celebration would last about two weeks so you can take your time to experience different Chinese customs.
Lopburi Monkey Banquet (Food Festival)
In the center of Thailand, Lopburi is one of the most historical cities. In Lopburi, the most well-known and celebrated festival would be the Lopburi Monkey Banquet, which usually takes place on the last Sunday of November. Since monkeys had helped help in Thai history, the monkeys here are also important to society. They can have their own reigns and walk in the city just like every normal citizen. While some may consider them to be rude and stealing, the townspeople think highly of their symbol of good fortune. On that day, after the speech given by the governor of Lopburi, the monkeys can be invited to have a buffet table. With more spectators viewing, the monkey can get excited to dance or even play with food. It is a must-see if you come to central Thailand.
Boun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival)
Not only is Boun Bang Fai celebrated in Laos, but it is also a regional festival in the northeast part of Thailand. The festival is celebrated on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the second weekend in May. The most common celebrations are music and dance performances. Besides, to memorize the coming of the rainy season, lots of huge rockets are launched into the sky. At night, there is a busy party happening in the center of the town. Many people will dance in organized groups. Feel free to join in and have fun.
Wing Kwai (Buffalo Racing Festival)
According to the lunar calendar, Wing Kwai takes place after the end of the rainy season (usually in October) in the province of Chonburi. Buffaloes are often seen as heavy and slow-moving, but during this festival, visitors can see how agile and fast they are. The race course is over 100 meters long, with many jockeys participating with their buffalos and running to the finish line. The traditional rule of racing is that the jockey must finish the race on the back of a buffalo. If a jockey falls off a buffalo, he is disqualified. Spectators enjoy the jockey trying to catch the buffalo by the back. After the award ceremony, the champion will be paraded through the town to show off his buffalo to the people of the city. The province of Chonburi is only a one-hour drive from Bangkok and Pattaya, so it is a must-go if you are around.
Surin Elephant Festival
The Surin Elephant Festival is held in November each year at the Si Narong Stadium, which is the biggest domestic elephant village in the world. The origin dates back to the failure of the Roman Empire. Elephants have always been considered to be the symbol of Thailand’s historical and cultural connection. The opening ceremony was held in the city center with a parade of floats decorated with all kinds of carved fruits and vegetables. There will be tons of fresh vegetables and fruits prepared by the locals at the end of the marching band, with some elephants being ridden by commanders. Besides, there will be music and light shows with all kinds of native elements in Prasat Si Koraphum, a temple with a long history.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival takes place at the end of the ninth month of the lunar calendar in Phuket and is mainly celebrated by the large population of Chinese Hokkien offspring. It was set in memory of the Nine Emperor Gods in Chinese sagas. The name may confuse lots of visitors since it has the word "vegetarian" in it but actually, the festival's translation is not only about eating vegetarian food but also about weaning participants off the pleasure they get from eating meat. Six Chinese temples in Phuket would hold the ceremony so it is also a good time to visit different temples. It is worth noticing that the ceremony can be very bloody as people will have body pierced for the belief that Chinese gods will protect them from harmful things.
Mekong Naga Fireballs
Mekong Naga Fireballs take place around the end or after the end of the 'Buddhist Lent' period, which may differ based on the climate that year. On the night of the festival, people from villages along the 250-meter-long Mekong River gather along its banks to watch red fireballs rise from the river and shoot into the sky. The number of fireballs depends on the weather conditions that day. Locals believe that it is the mythical river python "Phaya Nak" who shot the fireballs. As for the scientific explanation, the scientists have not come to an agreement but most scholars believe that the decomposition of the swamp gas produced methane, a flammable gas. The contact of methane in the water with oxygen in the air caused spontaneous combustion and a burst of flame, which is seen as a fireball.
Actually, there are more local celebrations, but you can also choose what you like. It is advisable that you book your journey in advance if you plan to join a local festival as the hotels and restaurants may be full at that time.