Famous Festivals all-round the Year in Thailand!
Take a journey into the festivals of Thailand. Enjoy its colourrs, foods and celebrations.
A lake full of light, streets full of colour, aromas wafting houses and water-soaked smiling faces! This is Thailand’s culture of vibrant festivals. Socialising, family, food and festival is a central construct of Thai living. Thailand’s exciting festivals come with their share of folklore and heritage. Legendary stories of strength, bravery, happiness, love and much more. From national and religious festivals of Thailand to festivals celebrated in certain provinces, Thailand is in a festive mood every month.
Every region in Thailand celebrates each religious festival in their own unique way. Some festivals are accompanied by a public holiday, while others are region-specific celebrated by locals with full enthusiasm. To truly experience Thailand is to be part of these festivities. Several travelers time their vacations to match Songkran Festival, to experience the candle festival, and long-boat races. Here is a monthly guide to the famous festivals all-round the year in Thailand!
Wai Sa Phaya Mengrai Festival
The start of the year opens with new year parties all across Thailand. Some of the biggest New Year Celebrations in Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya see revelers enjoying themselves. Once the new year excitement subsides, the locals of northern Thailand in Chiang Rai gear up for Wai Sa Phaya Mengrai Festival.
Chiang Rai set with colorful parades, cultural performances for the King Meng Rai Festival | Pic Courtesy – chiangraiprovince.org
Also known as King Meng Rai Festival, this celebration is more of a Founder’s Day than being a religious festival. Wai Sa Phaya Mengrai celebrates King Mengrai for building the Chiang Rai city and commences when Government authorities flag off the event. The festival commemorates King Merai for building the city and protecting it through the wars raged by Mongol empires.
Celebrations last up to seven days when the city is filled with colorful parades. Locals encourage travelers to be part of the parades to dance, play games, savor delicacies and dress up. A true Thai experience frolicking in the festivities! Local authorities display academic works and exhibition booths and many cultural performances are organized. Several booths sell One Tambon One Product (OTOP) products such as handicrafts, weaves, food and bamboo baskets.
Pak Nam Pho – Chinese Lunar New Year
Another festival full of parades is the Pak Nam Pho Chinese New Year Festival! An annual festival that last for almost 12 days and celebrated nation-wide, it observes the Thai Chinese relations.
Golden Dragons at the Chinese New Year Parade | Pic Courtesy: Mythailandphotos.com
But the biggest festivities are at Nakhon Sawan. Pak Nam Pho Chinese New Year Festival is largely celebrated in the Nakhon Sawan province. The festival honors Chao Pho Thepharak-Chao Mae Thapthim, the guardian spirits of the province. True to the Chinese spirit, you get to enjoy the golden dragon parades and lion dance show. Acrobats during the parade leave you spell-bound, the lights and dances through the streets of Nakhon Sawan are grand. You must not miss the popular parade of the ‘Golden Dragons of Nakhon Sawan’ and the delicious Chinese street food at Nakhon Sawan.
Chiang Mai Flower Festival
As the name suggests, spring in Chiang Mai is in full bloom! This three-day festival in Chiang Mai offers travelers an explosion of colors and a floral delight. Several tourists head to Chiang Mai in February to witness this natural beauty.
Flower parade at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Thailand’s natural fauna and stunning flowers are on full display at Suan Buak Haad Public Park. Chrysanthemums in vivid colors, damask roses, orchids and flowers native to Chiang Mai will take your breath away. Streets of Chiang Mai are filled with parade floats and elephants, decorated in spectacular flowers which turns out to be a competition.
Also, don’t miss the Queen of the Festival Contest, where young girls are dressed impeccably atop floral floats. These vibrant young girls put on a show to display their talents and skills. Dance performances, marching bands and floral floats, you get the full floral carnival experience in Chiang Mai.
Balloon Festival at Singha Park, Chiang Rai
Who wouldn’t love to spend a romantic getaway on Valentine’s Day with Gigantic hot air balloons in the sky? This glorious and iconic festival of Chiang Rai is called the Balloon Festival and is hosted at Singha Park. A five-day festival in February, people from across the world come to Thailand’s Singha Park to participate and enjoy the Balloon Festival.
Singha Park Chiang Rai International Valentine’s Balloon Fiesta
More than thirty balloons in myriad shapes and sizes fly high into the sky with their pilot and compete for a prize. This is a fun family festival by the lake. Simply pick a spot in Singha Park and enjoy the hot air balloons in the sky. As evening approaches, the festival hosts a special light and sound Balloon Night Glow show, live musical performances and offers great food and beer! If you are up to it take a ride in a hot air balloon for 20 – 30 minutes. Enjoy the lush greens of Chiang Rai and the open skies.
Thai Kite-Flying Festival
Gigantic, colorful and magnificent kites fill the skies at Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in March! Almost twenty kite-flying teams from across the globe travel to Thailand to celebrate this festival with their thoughtfully designed and fully functional kites. Teams from countries such as Switzerland, Germany and France participate to fly their kites and win competitions.
Thailand International Kite Festival | Pic Courtesy: thailandinsider.com
The Thai Kite Flying festival gives travelers a chance to look at flying gigantic kites in different shapes and sizes up close! Families can take pictures with the massive kites and world-famous kite flyers as well as fly kites in a separate arena. The Chula and Pak Pao show, Kite exhibition, beautifully tells the story of Thai Kites and its legends.
From learning to decorate your kite, to flying kites, and watching the pro’s in kite-flying action. The Thai Kite-Flying Festival is an experience you cannot miss.
Thao Suranari Fair
Celebrated widely in Nakhon Ratchasima, the Thao Suranari Fair commemorates the victory of Thao Suranari or Ya Mo. She bravely fought off the armies of Lao King. This 12- day celebration kicks off with a ceremonial lighting of the flame followed by a fireworks display. People from across Thailand come to pay their respects to the Lady Suranari monument in the city center, seeking blessings.
Thao Suranari Monument Square | Pic Courtesy : koratculture.com
Thai’s from Nakhon Ratchasima organize competitions, Ya Mo sporting events, beauty contests, concerts and cultural performances over 12 days. Ya Mo’s life and legendary stories of bravery are represented in a light and sound presentation. Enjoy a traditional Thai Fair and Festival with complete pomp. Rows and rows of exhibition booths and shops sell OTOP handicrafts. Delicious street food, firework shows and cultural performances make this festival magnanimous in Nakhon Ratchasima.
“Sawadee Pee Mai” is what you hear and must say when you’re splashed with water during the most iconic festival of Thailand – Songkran. Songkran – the biggest festival of Thailand – is a celebration that marks the beginning of the New Year in Thailand.
Everywhere across Thailand you will find people carrying water guns, buckets and hoses waiting for a good water splashing. As a sign of cleansing your soul, Songkran brings the young and the old, the traveler and locals together for a good soaking!
While it is all fun and social, Songkran- a Buddhist festival, is also about celebrating spirituality. Songkran lasts for around 3 days in April, from 13 -15. Festivities begin with firecrackers and deep cleaning of homes. Monks hold a procession with Buddha statues, where locals will pour water and flowers over the statues. Local Thai’s visit the Wats and pay homage to the monks offering alms to make merit. Which is then followed by water dousing and applying a healing paste of talcum across the face. One of the best places to enjoy Songkran are Chiang Mai – where the festivities last for 6 days.
Chakri Memorial Day
Chakri Day is a celebration of the Thai Royal Foundation. It celebrates the founding of Chakri Dynasty, every year on April 6th and also is a public holiday across Thailand. This is an important festival for Thai’s across the globe as it commemorates the birth of the capital city – Bangkok. Being a public holiday Chakri Memorial Day is celebrated with great fanfare across Thailand.
Chakri Day is a celebration of the Thai Royal Foundation, the founding of Chakri Dynasty
The Royal Family celebrates Chakri Memorial Day with enthusiasm too. The Royal King visits the Royal Pantheon to pay respects to King Rama I and his predecessors. Only then do the festivities begin, with the doors opening to the public only on this day of the year. People head out to pay their respects with floral garlands at the various Kings statues.
Phanom Rung Fair
“Walking up Phanom Rung Hill or Climbing up Khao Phanom Rung” fair is a lesser known festival. But one that is celebrated every year, at the Phanom Rung Historical Park in the Buri Ram province. The Phanom Rung Temple looks magnificent atop an extinct volcano in Buri Ram Province. It is possibly the most beautiful example of Khmer architecture across Thailand.
Prasat Phanom Rung | Pic Courtesy: bangkokpost.com
Every April scores of people climb through the historical park to witness sunlight pass through all the 15 doorways in the sanctuary. The Thai’s believe that this breath-taking sight – takes place only 4 times a year – brings with it many blessings.
Either early morning or during sunset, the rays of the sun align perfectly to pass through the entire Phanom Rung Temple. This offers travelers a magical sight to behold.
To promote cultural tourism, the locals arrange for a light and sound show, a grand procession and Apsara dance performances. The three-day extravaganza is a splendid to watch as well as shop for souvenirs and silk weaves. If you are visiting in April, the Phanom Rung Fair is one of interesting festivals in Thailand that will take your breath away!
Boon Bang Fai – Rocket Festival
Imagine a rocket being sent up to wake up the sky god Phaya Taen to unleash its full power of rain into farms. Sounds fun? Well that’s exactly what Boon Bang Fai is. Invoking the rain gods is customary across many cultures globally. But Thai’s have a fun and adventurous way of celebrating this festival.
Boon Bang Fai – Rocket Festival
Home made rockets, bamboo rockets, dancing and parties are all part of the Boon Bang Fai festival celebrated all over the Isaan-region. Boon Bang Fai festival promises you a colorful, exciting and loud three-day experience. Locals in every village make rockets at home. These are then launched in hope of getting a good downpour for the crops. Some rockets even weigh 100 kgs!
Traditionally celebrated just before the rains, the Boon Bang Fai festival is most popular in the Yasothorn province of north-east Thailand and quite dangerous. Yet it attracts thousands of travelers every year to celebrate with loud festivities, fancy rockets, parties and parades!
Phi Ta Khon – Ghost Festival
Up in Dan Sai in the Loei province of Thailand, locals wear scary masks, colorful clothes, and celebrate the Ghost Festival! A Buddhist tradition and festival celebrated in northern Thailand predominantly, Phi Ta Khon is one of the festivals in Thailand you must not miss.
Phi Ta Khon – Ghost Festival
This three-day festival has a bit of everything – Spirituality, fun, dance, food and masks, tons of masks. The Phi Ta Khon or Ghost festival kicks off on a June Friday with parades of scary costumes and colorful masks. Fun Fact: Dates of the Phi Ta Khon festival too are usually selected by the local psychic. The next day you can enjoy musical performances and beauty pageants and finally on Sunday be awed by the Buddhist ceremonies.
A photographer’s delight and a cultural-buff’s dream come true, Phi Ta Khon festival is an absolute visit and thrill. Especially when children walk around with scary masks!
The Candle Festival will leave you awe-struck at the sheer size of objects, statues and structures that can be crafted out of candle. One of the religious festivals in Thailand, the Candle Festival marks the start of the Buddhist Lent. Monks spend their time at the monasteries meditating and training other monks. The town people would offer these monks candles to make merit and receive blessings.
Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival, Thailand } Pic Courtesy : Thaizer.com
As time passed by, the traditional candle transformed into beautiful art pieces, thus giving birth to the Candle Festival in Thailand. These candles are elaborate designs carved in wood and covered in wax. Carved by artists who travel from all over to participate in the competition, the sculpted candles usually depict mythology.
Though celebrated nation-wide, one of the best places to view the candle festival is in the Ubon Ratchathani province. Locals take our processions of these candle structures on floats through the streets right up to the Temples. Through the procession, you can hear the bands play and watch the dancers perform, while you dine out on some street food. The whole view of the candle festival is surreal, especially when cities light up at night.
Mother’s Day – Queen Mother’s Birthday
The devotion and loyalty of the Thai people to their monarchs is strong. This is evident by the fact that they celebrate Mother’s Day on the Queens Birthday. Everyone in Thailand celebrates Mother’s Day on August 12th which is also a public holiday.
The image of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit is seen on Ratchadamnoen Avenue. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)
The festival commemorates the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Homes and public spaces are decorated with lights and portraits of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in her honor. The streets are buzzing with traditional food stalls and parades in Her Majesty’s honor. In the evening, the skies are lit up with firework displays and candle-lighting ceremonies in Bangkok.
As is the custom on Mother’s Day everywhere, Moms are revered and treated specially on this day. Mothers are invited by various schools to enjoy performances by their children. People visit temples to offer food to monks and pray, treat their mother’s with gifts and flowers.
Not for the faint-hearted or the weak stomached, the Vegetarian festival in Thailand involves piercing of the human body. Known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival and inspired by the Chinese, the Vegetarian festival lasts for nine days in Phuket. Across Thailand, Thai’s fast for nine days, abstaining from all types of meat, observing strict vegetarian diets, praying to the Gods and visiting monasteries.
Vegetarian Festival | Pic Courtesy – Instagram @phuketvegetarianfestival
This festival in Thailand has become note-worthy due to its gruesome form of celebrations in Phuket. Many men and women believe they are possessed and try to invoke the Gods while they move into a trance like state. In this state of no pain, they practice self-mutilations, walking on fire and piercing of their bodies. This parade is conducted in Phuket on the last day of the festival. But is celebrated across Thailand, being most popular around the Chinese shrines and temples.
Phichit Boat Racing Festival
When the tide is high on the Nan River in Phichit in September, the long-tail, colorful boats come out in all its grandeur. The Phichit Boat Racing festival is an annual festival and the oldest boat racing festival in Thailand.
Phichit Boat Racing Festival | Pic Courtesy: BangkokPost.com
This is a tradition that is over 200 years old and started out as a race among warriors who would protect the kingdom. Rowers in the long-tail boat race compete for the Royal Kings Trophy. The sight of decorated long-tailed boats soaring through the waters is exciting! The rowing crew is professional and trained and each boat carved out of auspicious wood. Enjoy watching long-tailed boats race in the waters of the Nan river amidst great cheer, excitement and good food!
Bang Fai Phaya – Naga Fireballs Festival
A natural phenomenon on Mekong river that creates magical fireballs is one of the most interesting festivals in Thailand – Naga Fireballs Festival. Every year the Mekong river sees a natural formation of gases. These gases rise up from the lake and up into the sky like a fireball.
Naga Fireballs Festival | Pic Courtesy: hostelbookers.com
Travellers share that the fireballs when rising have no odor and offer no sound as they disappear in the sky. They look like simple basketball sized spheres of floating light bulbs, that soar up to the sky and simply disappear. This natural phenomenon has brought travelers and locals by droves to the Mekong river to experience it.
Some scientists speculate they are red fireballs of methane gas caused by the swamp like condition of the river. The religious belief is the that these are being created by the serpent Phaya Nak that lives in the Mekong river. While some celebrate it as the return of Buddha in the form of Naga. Watch a beautifully lit up sky along the entire 250 km stretch of Mekong river amidst cheers at the Bang Fai Phaya Festival.
Wing Kwai (Water Buffalo Racing Festival)
Over 100 years ago, villagers from the small province of Chonburi in Thailand wanted to give thanks to their farming support – the mighty Buffalo! This gave rise to the Wing Kwai festival or Water Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand. As the name suggests, water buffaloes’ race across a dirt road, more than 1,000 meters long dragging their riders or trainers.
Water Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand | Pic Courtesy: sansiri.com
The significance and challenge arise when one realizes that a water buffalo is a huge and head strong animal weighing close to a ton! Ploughs are tied to the Buffalos with their owners balancing on them, controlling them tied with a rope and only a whip. And then the race begins, where these 2 gigantic beasts run! These animals are trained, fed, and prepped before the race to run the 1000-meter stretch fastest without falling.
This traditional buffalo festival brings an excited crowd of locals and travelers every year to Chonburi in October. While some buffaloes race, others are paraded for decoration and a beauty contest to determine health, fur, and girth of the body. When you’re done watching the thrilling races, you can enjoy the Muay Thai performances and the water buffalo’ decorations. If you’re up for the challenge, you can even participate in the ‘Wing Kwai’ festival on a smaller scale. Yes! You get to ride the buffalo without falling off it! Sounds exciting, isn’t it?
Loy Krathong Festival
It is mesmerizing to watch floating baskets filled with burning candles along the lakes and rivers in the night. Almost like a lake made of lights. Loy Krathong festival in Thailand – also known as the Festival of Lights – is celebrated by Thai-families across the nation.
Loy Krathong festival in Thailand
Families and travelers float candles in baskets (Krathongs) with flowers, incense sticks, coins, a hair lock or personal item and banana leaves. It is believed that all negative vibes, bad luck and fears of the year float away with the Krathongs. It is also considered as an ode to the Water Goddess- Mae Khongkha.
This 3-day festival in November is celebrated with much enthusiasm nation-wide. Once the Krathongs are afloat, the cities light up with firework displays, parties, pageants and parades. Bangkok hosts a large opening ceremony at the Chao Phraya River you must not miss. Also visit Sukhothai, the origin of the festival to fully enjoy the festivities of Loy Krathong!
Lopburi Monkey Festival
Among the old Khmer ruins long-tailed macaques feast on a buffet-spread served up by the local Thai’s who revere these animals. The Lopburi Monkey festival or the Monkey Buffet festival brings thousands of travelers in November to watch this beautiful sight.
Monkey eating fruits at Monkey Buffet festival | Pic Courtesy: Instagram festivalturu.comm
Otherwise, a quiet city, Lopburi located to the north of Bangkok gets active for the Lopburi Monkey Banquet. The locals in Lopburi believe that these long-tailed monkeys are descendants of Hanuman. As mythology has it, Hanuman was Lord Ram’s aide in saving his wife, Sita.
3000 monkeys gather to feast on the large spread of fruits, sticky rice and vegetables at the Phra Prang Sam Yot Temple. Before the monkeys can begin their feasting, locals gather in song and dance, some even dressing up like monkeys, to honor the macaques.
Surin Elephant Festival
Elephants are a revered symbol in Thailand! This naturally translated to these majestic beasts having a festival dedicated to them. Celebrated in November in the Northern Province of Surin, the Elephant Festival is a grand display of the magnificence and beauty of these creatures.
Surin Elephant Festival | Pic Courtesy: Wikipedia
50 years ago, Elephants were banned from being used as beasts of burden. So, Mahouts of the Surin province collectively began a round-up of their elephants to celebrate them instead. Travellers come specially during November to Northern Thailand to watch these animals in parades and ceremonies.
The festival begins with Elephants being fed a huge breakfast of vegetables and fruits which itself is a delightful sight to see. Which is then followed by special performances enacted by colorfully robed elephants and their Mahouts. This event is not just for entertainment, but also helps raise funds for the mahouts, their villages and for the care of the elephants.
King Rama IX’s Birthday – Previously Father’s Day
Thai’s revere the Royal Family and in honor of the King celebrate Father’s Day in December on the late Kings Birthday. In reverence to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birth anniversary, 5th December continues to be celebrated as Father’s Day, even after his death. Today, this annual festival is celebrated in His Majesty’s remembrance.
Street decorations in Bangkok for the King’s birthday – photo by Eric Molina
Families dress up in yellow or golden outfits and decorate their homes with portraits of the King and Thai flags. People pay respects to their father’s with flowers and gifts. Earlier, Thai’s would flock to the streets to listen to the King’s speech and get a glimpse of His Majesty up close. Cities across Thailand would light up with candle- lighting ceremonies and community celebrations in his honor.
Christmas and New Year Celebrations in Thailand
Christmas in Thailand | Pic Courtesy: thaitravelblogs.com
Though Thailand has only a small population of Christians, the whole of Thailand joins in the festivities of Christmas. Malls in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket put up elaborate decorations such as well-lit Christmas trees and recreate the Christmas atmosphere. Shopping Spree’s and Christmas festive discounts are fairly common, giving visitors a good opportunity to shop. The Christmas fervor remains strong across Thailand.
AIS Bangkok Countdown. CentralWorld | Bangkok Post
New Year’s in Thailand is a blast! Every city has its own parties and celebrations for the New Year Countdown. Fireworks across Thailand welcomes the calendar new year in. Chiang Mai is known to celebrate New Year’s Eve with great pomp and have dance performances, light shows and music concerts. Bangkok at Central World hosts excellent firework displays and pyrotechnics to bring in the New year! In fact, Bangkok has been ranked as the 7th best place to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the world.
Thailand believes in the concept of Sanuk and enjoying every moment in daily life and celebrating life to the fullest. While we’ve listed some festivals in Thailand, there are many more festivals and celebrations to explore in each region.