Celebrating Thailand’s colourful festivals

Thailand hosts several festivals throughout the year, from nationwide celebrations like Songkran and Loy Krathong to regional festivals like the Poy Sang Long Festival. Each festival has its unique charm and offers visitors a chance to experience the local culture and heritage of Thailand. Check out our selection of some of the main festivals that take place in Thailand. For details on upcoming events and festivals, visit our regularly updated News and Events page.

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival

Where: Bo Sang Village, Chiang Mai
When: Third weekend in January

The twin villages of Bo Sang and Sankhampaeng are located just a short distance away from the city of Chiang Mai. These villages have gained popularity for their exquisite handicrafts and traditional umbrellas. The local products are celebrated during the Bo Sang Umbrella and Sankhampaeng Crafts Festival, which takes place every January. Although it is a small festival, it is enjoyable to attend. During the festival, the streets of Bo Sang are adorned with umbrellas and parasols. There are also musical performances and a parade featuring local people in traditional dress carrying parasols.

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival
(Photo: Roy Cavanagh)

Chinese Lunar New Year

Where: Nationwide (but most notably in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai (and Songkhla) Nakhon Sawan, Phuket, Ratchaburi, and Suphanburi)
When: January or February

In Thailand, people have three different opportunities to celebrate the New Year. In addition to the festivities on December 31, there is also the Songkran Water Festival in mid-April, which welcomes in the traditional Thai New Year. Furthermore, the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival is another significant event, particularly for Thai people of Chinese origin (who are estimated to be around 14% of the population).

Although the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival is not an official holiday in Thailand, it is an important occasion celebrated in various locations around the country including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. The festival typically falls in January or February and features fireworks, street parades, and food stalls. It’s a fun time to be in Thailand and join in the festivities.

Chinese New Year, Yaowarat Road, Bangkok
(Photo: GOLFX / Shutterstock.com)

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Where: Chiang Mai (with events centred around Nong Buak Haad Park)
When: First weekend in February

The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is a delightful event taking place over the first weekend in February. Featuring floral decorations, street parades, local markets, and music concerts, the festival is fun for all the family and retains its local identity despite attracting tourists from both overseas and Thailand. Don’t miss the festival if you’re visiting North Thailand in early February.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival
(Photo: Roy Cavanagh)

Makha Bucha Day

Where: Nationwide
When: February (occasionally in March)

Makha Bucha Day commemorates the event when 1,250 disciples of Lord Buddha gathered spontaneously to listen to his preaching.

Buddhism is important in Thai society, with more than 90% of the population being Buddhist. There are three important Buddhist holidays during the year: Makha Bucha Day, Visakha Bucha Day, and Asahna Bucha Day. All three are public holidays. The date of these holidays varies each year depending on the lunar calendar. 

Makha Bucha Park, Nakhon Nayok
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Poy Sang Long Festival

Where: Mae Hong Son province (and some Shan temples in Chiang Mai)
When: Late March or early April

The Poy Sang Long Festival is a local celebration observed by the Shan (Tai Yai) community in northern Thailand. The festival is most popular in Mae Hong Son and is known for its colourful events that take place over three days. It marks the ordination of young Shan boys into monkhood and is celebrated with elaborate ceremonies and parades in temples throughout Mae Hong Son town and surrounding villages. It’s an essential and proud family event that showcases Shan culture.

Poy Sang Long Festival, Mae Hong Son
(Photo: Mick Shippen)

Songkran New Year Water Festival

Where: Nationwide
When: 13-15 April 

In Thailand, the Songkran Festival is celebrated during the hot season in April, marking the traditional Thai New Year. For many Thai people, it is an important family occasion and the most highly anticipated holiday of the year. During the festival, normal activities are set aside as playful water fights break out in villages, towns, and cities across the country. 

Dousing one another with water is a traditional way of wishing good luck and good health for the upcoming year. The water symbolises new beginnings and washes away any misfortune from the previous year. While looking at photos or videos of the events can give you an idea of what to expect, experiencing Songkran in person is the only way to truly appreciate what makes it one of the most amazing festivals in the world.

Read more about the Songkran Festival

Celebrating Songkran, Silom Road, Bangkok
(Photo artapartment/Shutterstock.com)

Visakha Bucha Day

Where: Nationwide
When: May/June

Visakha Bucha Day is one of the most significant events in the Buddhist calendar. It is observed on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month, which is known as the Visakha month. This day commemorates three important events in the life of the Buddha. Firstly, it marks his birth. Secondly, it signifies the day when he attained enlightenment, which occurred 35 years after his birth. Lastly, it is also the day when Buddha died and entered Nirvana, 45 years after reaching enlightenment.

Bung Ban Fai Rocket Festival

Where: North-East Thailand (Isaan) plus some areas of North Thailand
When: Usually held in May

The Bung Ban Fai Rocket Festival is a quirky and noisy festival held in Thailand’s rice-growing regions, particularly in Isaan. To bring rain for a successful rice crop, phallus-shaped bamboo rockets are launched into the sky.

Yasothon Rocket Festival
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival

Where: Dan Sai, Loei Province
When: June

The Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival is an annual event in Dan Sai, Loei, where masked revellers take to the streets for three days. The festival’s origins are unclear, but it’s celebrated in June with enthusiasm. You can also visit a museum in Dan Sai to learn more about this fascinating local event.

Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival, Loei
(Photo: Mick Shippen)

Asahna Bucha Day

Where: Nationwide
When: July/August

Asahna Bucha Day marks the day when Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon at a deer park in India. Candles are donated to temples, and candlelight processions take place in various towns across Thailand. The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is one of the most famous events.

Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is a colourful event that takes place in June or July to commemorate Buddhist holidays. Thai Buddhists donate candles to temples, which has evolved into elaborate candle festivals across Thailand. The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is one of the biggest, featuring giant wax candles and beautiful displays paraded through the streets accompanied by Isaan folk music and traditional dancers. 

Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
(Photo: Roy Cavanagh)

The day after Asahna Bucha is known in Thai as ‘Wan Khao Phansa’ which starts a three-month retreat period for monks called ‘Phansa’. It is also known as ‘Buddhist Lent’ and concludes around three months later (usually in October) with Awk Phansa.

Vegetarian Festival

Where: Nationwide (notably in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket)
When: September/October

Annual Vegetarian Festivals take place in several locations around Thailand, but it is Phuket where the tradition is taken to another level.

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival in Thailand is an annual event held over nine days and nine nights in September or October. During the festival, people abstain from eating meat, seafood, and dairy products to purify their bodies. The festival features mah song, individuals who become entranced and allow the spirits of the gods to enter their bodies. They demonstrate this state by piercing various instruments into their body. The festival is believed to remove bad luck and evil spirits from the community.

Awk Phansa

Where: Nationwide
When: October

Awk Phansa marks the end of the Buddhist rains retreat period in Thailand. It is celebrated with religious ceremonies and festivals across the country, reflecting local culture and traditions.

Rub Bua, Lotus Throwing Festival

Where: Bang Phli, Samut Prakan
When: October

In Buddhism, the white lotus represents purity and is used for making merit. The Rub Bua Festival in Bang Phli, Samut Prakan has evolved from this practice. Locals gather along the Samrong Canal to welcome a boat carrying a revered Buddha image. Thousands of lotus flowers are thrown into the canal, and it’s auspicious if a flower lands in the boat.

Video of Rub Bua Festival

Lai Reua Fai, Illuminated Boat Festival

Where: Nakhon Phanom 
When: October

The Lai Reua Fai Festival in Nakhon Phanom is a large-scale event that takes place on the Mekong River. It has its roots in the Awk Phansa tradition of floating small boats made of bamboo or banana tree trunks on the river with candles and offerings. This tradition has evolved into a more elaborate festival with beautifully illuminated boats being used in the event.

Lai Reua Fai (Illuminated Boat) Festival, Nakhon Phanom
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Loy Krathong Festival

Where: Nationwide
When: November

Loy Krathong is one of the most beautiful festivals held in Thailand and is celebrated nationwide. The exact date of the festival varies each year depending on the full moon but usually falls in November. Loy Krathong provides an opportunity for people to symbolically float away their troubles and pay their respects to the water spirits. 

Loy Krathong Festival, Sukhothai
(Photo: Shutterstock)

The traditional way of making a krathong uses natural materials such as the trunk of a banana tree and banana leaves. These materials are then decorated with colourful flowers. Before floating the krathong on the nearest stretch of water, people place incense sticks and candles inside the krathong and light them. After that, they offer a silent wish or prayer before placing the krathong on the water.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival

Where: North Thailand (most famously in Chiang Mai)
When: November

Yi Peng Lantern Festival is a traditional celebration in North Thailand. It was originally a separate festival to mark the end of the rainy season. Now it is combined with Loy Krathong festivities. Beautiful hanging lanterns adorn homes, temples, and shops, while sky lanterns are launched into the sky. The lantern’s light symbolises hope for a brighter future in Buddhist tradition.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai
(Photo: Roy Cavanagh)

Christmas Star Festival

Where: Sakon Nakhon 
When: December

Thai people predominantly practise Buddhism, but Christmas is still celebrated by Thai Christians. The largest Roman Catholic community in Thailand, located in Ban Ta Rae in Sakon Nakhon, marks the occasion with the Christmas Star Parade.

Sakon Nakhon Christmas Star Parade
(Photo: aimpol buranet / Shutterstock.com)

The dates of some local festivals aren’t always confirmed until nearer the time of the event. For details on upcoming events and festivals, visit our regularly updated News and Events page.

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