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Ceremonie-Customs-Traditions & Festivals

Most important ceremonies, festivals, customs and traditions

Both the Gregorian calendar and the Buddhist calendar are used in Thailand. In the Thai calendar, the year 1 begins B.E. after entering Buddha into nirvana. 1989 AD corresponds to the year 2532 in Thailand. So there is a difference of 543 years. The religious holidays and folk festivals in Thailand are based on the lunar calendar. National holidays are determined according to the european, i.e. the gregorian calendar.

Thai customs and ceremonies can be categorized into groups as follows

  1. Family ceremonies
  2. Religious ceremonies
  3. Tradition and folk festivals
  4. Official festivals and ceremonies
  5. Manners and Uses

Family ceremonies

Refers to the different stages of life from birth to death. They are ceremonies relating to birth, house initiation, Buddhist confirmation, ordination (entry into the monastery), marriage or wedding, divorce and death.

Birth

The parents usually seek advice from a monk when choosing a name for their children. The name should not only sound nice, but also have a positive meaning. Traditionally, it is customary to shave the baby’s hair after a month. This rite is called the “Khwan” ceremony. It is of Bramanic origin, but is often accompanied by a Buddhist ceremony.

House opening

Monks are invited to the house for the inauguration. They sit on a center and hold a sacred ribbon together. The ribbon is connected to the image of the Buddha and extends around the whole house. Buddhist texts are sung and then the monks receive gifts. Finally, the residents of the house and the guests are blessed.

Buddhist confirmation

Buddhist confirmation is an annual event. A Buddhist can confirm his or her belief in any of the first seven days of Buddhist Lent. The first confirmation usually takes place in the 7th year of life.

Ordination

There are two types of ordination:

  1. Banpacha for novices, i.e. boys who have not yet reached the age of 20.
  2. Uppasombot for monks

Entry to the monastery – Uppasombot is possible at any time after the age of 20. Entering the monastery gives men the opportunity to make a contribution to the soul of their parents or deceased relatives. Monasticism is expected to mature men. What he learned in the monastery should be used as a guideline for his lifestyle.

Ordinance generally takes place in July, before Buddhist Lent begins. The day before the ordination, the man’s hair is shaved and white robes are put on. The rite is called Buat Naag. Friends, relatives and neighbors can take part in the celebration. On the day of the acceptance of the order, the naag is walk three times around the bot, symbolic of the honor of Buddha, sacred teaching and monasticism. The naag then enters the bot and is questioned by the monks on Pali. After the naag has fulfilled all the requirements, he is accepted as a monk. He can then be dressed by the monks. He is expected to stay in the temple as a monk, to study and understand the teachings of the Buddha. He is free to leave the monastery at any time.

Marriage

In the past, marriages in Thailand were almost always arranged by the family or by the parents. Nowadays young people can choose their partner by themselves. However, the parents often still contribute a great deal to bringing about a marriage. Getting married doesn’t just mean living with the man or woman: you should also get along reasonably well with both-side parents (and relatives).

Wedding

In traditional weddings, the parents or the couple themselves decide when to hold the ceremony. One invites monks into the bride’s house, who sing from sacred texts there. On the morning of that day, the bride and groom take care of the food for the monks who take part in the lunch. In turn, they sing from the sacred texts to bless the bride and groom. After the singing, the eldest monk sprinkles holy water on the bride and groom and all those present. The wedding takes place either directly after this ceremony or later in the afternoon. The parents and guests pour holy water from mussel shells over the hands of the couple. The bride and groom kneel next to each other and put their forearms on a pillow. They carry a garland of threads that symbolically connects them with one another.

Divorce

According to Thai law, divorce is less complicated. In principle, a man and woman can legally divorce at the registry office at any time if both spouses agree. Abroad, the divorce is applied for at the Thai embassy. If one of them refuses to divorce and the other insists on the divorce, the matter must be tried in court. Formerly a woman had to reckon with social respect if she divorced her husband, not necessarily nowadays. Polygamy (that a man may have several wives or marry) was common in Thailand before 1935. It was only after 1935 that polygamy was legally abolished. The second wife is no longer recognized as a lawful wife. In addition, the man must officially recognize children from such a relationship if the children are also to be hereditary.

Death case

At the funeral, women wear black, men wear either a black or dark blue tie, an armband or black or dark blue trousers with a white, short-sleeved shirt.

As soon as death has occurred, a bath is usually prepared for the first afternoon. Monk relatives and friends pour holy water on the hands of the deceased. A consecrated ribbon is wrapped around the body three times. The ribbon symbolizes passion, anger and ignorance and is usually removed again before being burned. The body is placed in a coffin and guarded for seven evenings either in the house or in the temple. Every evening monks recite chants from the Buddhist scriptures. Friends and relatives come to bring wreaths or garlands of fresh or artificial flowers. After seven days the coffin is taken to the cemetery, and after a hundred days the cremation ceremony usually takes place. Relatives and friends put incense sticks and black and white paper flowers on a bonfire. Then the body is either burned in a wooden coffin at the stake or in a crematorium.

The ashes of the deceased are collected and some of them are kept in the family home or on the temple grounds. The rest is scattered in the sea or in the wind. Every year relatives invite to the dead monk’s birthday to bless the ashes and sing prayers. This ceremony is held in the pavilion of a wat.

Religious ceremonies

The most important religious ceremonies are: The ceremonies for the beginning and the end of Buddhist Lent, Asanhabucha Day, Makhabucha Day, Visakhabucha Day, Buddhist Day of Prayer and Tod Katin.

The ceremony to mark the beginning of Buddhist Lent

Buddhist Lent falls in the rainy season, i.e. from the middle of the 8th month of the Thai lunar calendar to the 11th month. During the rainy season, Buddhist monks should stay in one place, usually their temples. The ceremony begins – one day before the beginning of Lent – in the evening with the prayer of the monks. The next morning the monks are served food. In some regions, the fasting candle is carried in the procession to the temple. During this time you make sure that the fasting candle that you put in front of the main Buddha statue is lit.

The ceremony marking the end of Buddhist Lent.

The ceremony takes place in the 11th month on the first day of the moon-waking phase and is considered to be the end of the rainy season. On this occasion, monks are given special food gifts – Takbatr Thewo.

Asanha Bucha

Asanha Bucha Day is an official Buddhist holiday on the full moon day of the eighth month according to the Thai lunar calendar. This day commemorates the Buddha’s first public sermon. Asnha Bucha is celebrated with candlelight around the bot.

Makha Bucha

Makha Bucha day is the first full moon day of the third month according to the Thai lunar calendar. On this day, Buddhists commemorate the Buddha’s sermon to 1250 monks. These monks miraculously gathered without notice. Light processions are held around the bot.

Visakha Bucha

According to the Thai lunar calendar, the festival takes place on the full moon day of the sixth month. It is the most important Buddhist holiday. On the day of Visakha Bucha one commemorates the birth of the Buddha, his enlightenment and his entry into nirvana.

The festival begins in the evening. The highest-ranking monk gives a sermon. then the monks form themselves into a procession with prayers. People join the procession with flowers and lit candles.

Tod Kratin

The Katin ceremony begins towards the end of Buddhist Lent, the monks are brought new robes and other offerings. Originally, the monks dressed in new clothes during this time. The garment was sewn from white fabric, dyed with the wood of the jackfruit tree and brought to the temple as an offering. Today you buy the ready-made robes in the shop.

Buddhist day of prayer

 The Buddhist Day of Prayer is not a public holiday. Many Buddhists go to the temple on this day to hear the sermon. The Buddhist day of prayer usually takes place four times a month, i.e. on the full moon day when the moon cannot be seen, on the first day of the waning moon and on the first day of the waxing moon.

Tradition and folk festivals

New Year / New Years Eve

Many international hotels and private companies host parties. You dance, play and exchange gifts. Early in the morning on January 1st, monks receive offerings on their morning tour. You visit older family members, relatives and friends to give gifts.

Songkran Festival (Thai New Year)

The traditional Thai New Year is celebrated on April 13th. The Buddha statues are bathed in perfumed water, young people should respect old people by pouring water into their hands that smells of jasmine and handing over small gifts. It is a custom to release animals such as fish or birds on this day.

Chinese new year

The Chinese celebrate their New Year’s first full moon day of the year, i.e. between the end of January and the beginning of March. The festival is celebrated with fireworks and dragon dances on the streets.

According to an old custom, the Chinese believe that the happiness of the coming year depends on the course of that day. So everyone tries to spend this day the way they want to experience the rest of the year. There should be harmony in the family. In the morning, gifts are given to friends and relatives. Children receive “AngPao/Bonus” and employees receive an annual bonus. During this time the Chinese close their shops for two to three days.

Loy Krathong Festival

Large parts of the country are often flooded towards the end of the rainy season. In mid-November, people float small bowls on rivers and lakes during the full moon night. In the bowls there are burning candles, incense sticks and some flowers. Originally, the bowls are shaped like lotus flowers. Today you can see bowls in different shapes and colors. You put the Krathong (bowls) on the water on the bank. They slowly drift away with the current. It’s a very old tradition. Many believe that this is how people ask forgiveness from the goddess of water for polluting the river. Others believe that the floating pods made of banana leaves symbolize the drifting away of sin.

Official festivals and ceremonies

Chakri – day

Chakri Day takes place every year on April 6th. On this day Bangkok was founded by King Rama the First, the progenitor of the Chakri dynasty. Celebrations take place in Wat Phra Kaeo. Phra Sart Phra Thep Bhidorn, the building with the statues of all kings, is open to the public on this day.

Coronation day

On May 4, 2016 the current king, His Majesty King Vachiralongkorn, Rama the Tenth, ascended the throne. Every year is celebrated on this day.

The royal plowing ceremony

Every year in May the king opens the sowing with a ceremony that originated in the ancient Brahmanic belief. It takes place on Phramen Ground / Sanam Luang , front of the Royal Palace. The role of the king as a tiller, as “master of the harvests” is taken over by an official of the Ministry of Agriculture. He demonstrates several types of forage pulled by oxen with the plow. Depending on the feed the ox chooses, the brahmin predicts the harvest. After sowing the rice grains, the farmers try to get some seeds to ensure a good harvest.

The Chulalongkorn Day

October 23rd is the day of death of King Rama the Fifth. In his honor, parades take place on the large square / Royal Plaza, in front of the Anantasamakom Palace Building. People lay wreaths on his monument.