Thailand Holidays and Festivals

Je Vegetarian Festival in Thailand

by Dave in Features and Archives, Koh Chang and Thailand, Koh Chang News, Koh Chang News 2015, Thailand Holidays and Festivals Comments Off on Je Vegetarian Festival in Thailand

The Chinese/Thai Je Vegetarian Festival

je vegetarian festival food logoMonday the 1st of October 2016 sees the start of the annual Thai-Chinese religious festival commonly known as “Je”. This is Taoist religious festival of self-denial and purification in honour of the Nine Emperor Gods. According to Taoist belief the Nine Emperor Gods govern the movements of the stars and heavens and comprise seven main stars of the Ursa Major or Big Dipper constellation as well as two fainter nearby stars.

Commencing at the beginning of the ninth Chinese lunar month, The festival goes on for nine days, one day for each of the Emperor Gods and participants in the festival must refrain from a number of activities during this period.
Observers of Je are prohibited from eating meat, fish or dairy produce. In fact the dietary restrictions also prohibit any “strong smelling foods” so even vegetables like garlic and onion may not be consumed, nor can coriander. Ginger is OK but shallots aren’t.  it’s pretty hard to figure out what’s allowed or not sometimes.

Additionally participants may not drink alcohol or have sex, and strict observers wear only white clothing. Individuals are prohibited from taking part in the festival if they are in a period of mourning or are pregnant or menstruating; unclean apparently.

je-festival-foods-smallThe Thai interpretation of the Je festival that is practised in Phuket is the best known around the world. There many people volunteer themselves as “Ma Song”, effectively offering their bodies as vessels for divine possession. They enter a trance-like state during which their bodies are often pierced with skewers, knives, spears and all manner of pointy things. There is much bloodshed and the images can look as if the “Ma Song” are suffering but the trance state is apparently so intense that they report feeling no pain. Preparation is meticulous, all involvement is voluntary, and those who take part report feeling a calm and serene state of mind in the period after the festival. It sure makes for a great spectacle though. Interestingly this physical side of the festival is only practised on Phuket and it is thought to be an amalgamation of the original Chinese festival with the Indian festival of Thaipusam, which has similarly spiky observances.

Fortunately or otherwise depending where you are situated on the squeamishness/bloodlust continuum you won’t see such extreme acts by Koh Chang’s Je celebrants. What you are more likely to spot are a large number of local restaurants offering special Je menus. They use the striking yellow and red symbol pictured to advertise the fact and local shops and supermarkets will display similarly marked Je-friendly produce. The food on offer is worth a try. It focuses strongly on Chinese tastes and flavours.  There’s lots of shitake and other mushrooms, fermented soy beans add complexity of flavour, meat-textured tofu features in place of meat and of course there are vegetables galore. Why not give a Je meal a try for a change? The break from meat consumption undoubtedly has positive health effects in common with the fasts that are a part of so many worldwide religious observances.

Chilli is still allowed of course. This is Thailand remember, the home of spicy food. Nobody here could ever deny themselves Chilli could they?

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Loy Kratong on Koh Chang

by Dave in Thailand Holidays and Festivals Comments Off on Loy Kratong on Koh Chang

The Festival of Loy Kratong on Koh Chang

The Thai festival of Loy Kratong is celebrated on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month every year. In 2015 the festival falls on November 25th. People all over the country prepare elaborately decorated kratongs. These are small banana tree platforms decorated with banana and coconut leaves and flowers and containing a combination of food, nuts, incense sticks, coins and a lighted candle. These kratongs are floated – ‘Loy’ means float in Thai – on pretty much any body of water that comes to hand.

The festival originates from Sukhothai, Thailand’s original capital, in the 13th Century. Nang Nopamas, a royal consort of King Ramkhamhaeng (the founder of Sukhothai), is said to have made the first kratong and set it adrift so that it would float past the king. The king was delighted with the creation and Loy Kratong was instituted as an annual festival. For this reason Loy Kratong on Koh Chang is a romantic evening and couples make wishes as they launch their kratongs. A kratong that floats a long way with a lit candle is seen as a good omen for relationships. If it sinks then people just shrug their shoulders and wait for the next year.

Loy Kratong has several religious interpretations. The kratong is seen by some as an offering in thanks to ‘Phra Mae Kongka’ the goddess of water for a plentiful supply of water. Others find Buddhist interpretations of the festival, the kratong being a tribute of respect to Lord Buddha or a means of paying respect to one’s ancestors. The festival may have originated as a Hindu festival paying homage to the god Vishnu.

Whatever its origin it is an atmospheric occasion and you will be made welcome to participate Loy Kratong on Koh Chang. Kratong materials will be available all over the island and the locals will be happy to assist in showing you how  to assemble your kratong.

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Water Festival of Songkran on Koh Chang

by Dave in Koh Chang and Thailand, Thailand Holidays and Festivals Comments Off on Water Festival of Songkran on Koh Chang

Songkran on Koh Chang

If you’re in Thailand between the 13th and 15th of April  then prepare yourselves for Songkran, Thailand’s famous new year festival. If you’ve been here before then you will probably know what to expect; celebrations, entertainment and lots and lots of water. If this is your first time then here is your Songkran on koh Chang survival guide.

Songkran is Thailand’s biggest public holiday and celebrates the Thai new year. For convenience these days Thailand uses the international calendar and the year (this year is 2552) commences on January first. But Songkran marks the date of the traditional Thai new year. The date was originally linked to the lunar calendar but is now fixed.

The festival is a time of renewal and the paying of respect to Buddhist images and elders. Traditionally this was expressed by the ritual of the pouring of a few drops of water over a person to display respect. But, perhaps because Songkran occurs in the fierce heat of Thailand’s hot season, this rite is now interpreted as the wholesale throwing of water over anything and everybody, so expect to get wet.

There are two basic approaches. If you don’t want to get a soaking then stay inside during daylight hours, during Songkran on Koh Chang the water throwing is focused mainly on the road so you might, just might, be safe on the beach. Alternatively leave anything that doesn’t like water such as passports, cameras, phones and the like in a safe place or seal them in a plastic bag and go and join in the fun. You can buy water guns, buckets and other “weapons” at many local stores. All of the groups of celebrants lining the road will be happy to welcome you into their armies. It is common for people to rub your face with dabs of talc, again a tradition denoting respect. Be warned, however, that it turns into a caustic goo that you do not want in your eyes. Watch out also for the groups who are using freezing cold water chilled by small icebergs of ice – a direct hit from one of these buckets is a bracing experience.

By sunset things are generally wrapping up as people go home to clean up and change into dry clothes for the evening. Make sure you don’t  soak them then as it won’t be appreciated. Also remember that Songkran is by far the most dangerous time of year on Thailand’s roads and hundreds of people die annually. Drive with care and be careful about drenching passing motorists.

So have a fun and happy Songkran on Koh Chang. Sawat Dee Pee Mai! Happy New year!

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Thai Festivals & Holidays

by Dave in Information Pages, Thailand Holidays and Festivals Comments Off on Thai Festivals & Holidays

Thai Festivals & Holidays 2019/20

Thailand celebrates a whole host of different celebrations, festivals and public holidays.
On Thai public holidays banks, post offices etc. are closed but all transport and most tourism-related businesses still operate as normal.
Below is a guide to the Thailand Public Holidays in 2019.

October 2019

13th Sunday – This public holiday comemmorates the passing of the revered King Rama IX, Bhumibol Adalyadej
14th Monday – Public Holiday in Lieu

23rd Wednesday – Chulalongkorn Day
Public Holiday in remembrance of the revered Thai Monarch King Rama V.

November 2019

13th Wednesday – Loy Kratong
Thailand’s special annual Full Moon Festival.
(Read more about this atmospheric festival here)

December 2019

5th Thursday – Father’s Day
The celebration of the date of birth of the revered King Rama IX, Bhumibol Adalyadej also marks Father’s day in Thailand.

10th Tuesday – Constitution Day
Public holiday celebrating the signing of the first of Thailand’s many constitutions.

25th Wednesday – Christmas Day
Not a public holiday in this Buddhist nation but Christmas is certainly celebrated in all the nation’s shopping malls.

31st Tuesday – New Year’s Eve
Public holiday

January 2020

1st Wednesday – New Years Day
The Western New Year is the first of three New Year celebrations in Thailand and is a national holiday.

25th Saturday – Chinese New Year
Whilst widely celebrated by Thailand’s large Chinese community the Chinese lunar New Year is not a national holiday although lots of businesses close and watch out for sudden bursts of firecracker fire. This year, in case you were wondering, will be the year of the Rat.

February 2020

8th Saturday – Makha Bucha Day
Makha Bucha day is a Buddhist festival and national holiday that celebrates the first sermon given by the Buddha.
10th Monday – Public Holiday in lieu

March 2020

22nd-23rd Saturday/Sunday – Trat Memorial Day
Although they are not public holidays on these days the people of Trat province celebrate the return of Trat to Thai sovereignty by the French following negotiations overseen by King Rama V. If you find yourself in Trat Town on these days then head to the park in front of the city hall which is the focus of festivities to mark the anniversary.

April 2020

Monday 6th – Chakri Day
A public holiday that celebrates the founding of Thailand’s Chakri dynasty of Monarchy in 1782 by King Rama I.
Mon 8th – Public Holiday in Lieu

Mon, Tue, Wed 13-14-15 – Songkran Festival (Read more about the famous water festival here)
Thailand’s New Year is celebrated by the famous water festival. Get involved and you’ll have fun.

Tuesday 16th – Public holiday in Lieu

May 2020

Friday 1st – Labour Day
A holiday that is held in Thailand and many other countries to celebrate the economic and social contributions of the Kingdom’s workers – by giving them the day off.

Monday 4th – Coronation Day

Wednesday 6th – Visaka Bucha Day
This sacred Buddhist day marks three events; the birth, the enlightenment and the ascention of the Buddha.

June 2020

3rd Wednesday – The Birthday of her Royal Highness the Queen of Thailand.
This day serves as a Public Holiday to celebrate the Queen’s birthday and is also the day that Thais celebrate Mothers’ Day.

July 2020

4th Saturday – Asana Bucha Day
6th Monday – Holiday in lieu forAsana Bucha Day
7th Wednesday – Khao Pansa Day (Buddhist Lent)

These are Public Holidays celebrating the Buddhist Lent period when monks traditionally retreat to their temples in contemplation as new life grows and springs forth.

28th Tuesday –  H.M. King Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday

August 2020

12th Wednesday – The Birthday of H.M. Queen Sirikit.
This day serves as a Public Holiday to celebrate the Queen’s birthday and is also the day that Thais celebrate Mothers’ Day.

October 2020

13th Tuesday – This public holiday comemmorates the passing of the revered King Rama IX, Bhumibol Adalyadej

23rd Friday – Chulalongkorn Day
Public Holiday in remembrance of the revered Thai Monarch King Rama V.

November 2020

1st Sunday – Loy Kratong (not a public holiday)
Thailand’s special annual Full Moon Festival.
(Read more about this atmospheric festival here)

December 2020

5th Saturday – Father’s Day
7th Monday- Public holiday in lieu

The celebration of the date of birth of the revered King Rama IX, Bhumibol Adalyadej also marks Father’s day in Thailand.

10th Thursday – Constitution Day
Public holiday celebrating the signing of the first of Thailand’s many constitutions.

25th Friday – Christmas Day
Not a public holiday in this Buddhist nation but Christmas is certainly celebrated in all the nation’s shopping malls.

31st Thursday – New Year’s Eve
Public holiday

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