Many of Thailand’s annual events are determined by the lunar calendar, so dates change from year to year, this is particularly true of religious holidays. However, most larger shops no longer close for public holidays, although smaller retail outlets and family shops close for Chinese New Year and Songkran. Provinces have their own local festivals to celebrate harvests of seasonal crops.

The River of Kings Festival
Now In its fourth year, “The River of Kings Festival” presents a spectacular light-and-sound extravaganza in a grand theatrical production with a cast of more than 700 actors and actresses and two live elephants, depicting the history of Thailand (January 31- February 9, 2003 at Ratchaworadit Pier, Bangkok)

The Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Beauty contests, handicraft sales, flower displays and a parade of sumptuously decorated floats take to the streets as Chiang Mai residents celebrate flower power.

The Asean Barred Ground Dove Festival
Dove-lovers from across Thailand, and neighboring countries congregate at Khwan Muang Park, in Yala Province, to display their prize doves and take part in the dove-cooing competition, which usually involves more than 1,400 participants.

The Songkran Festival Nationwide.
The traditional Thai New Year usually falls around the 13-17th April, probably the best known of the Thai festivals. This simple and fun filled festival celebrates the Thai New Year. The exact date varies according to the solar calendar, but usually occurs around the 13th-15th April when the planets are positioned so that the days and nights are equal. Thais celebrate by visiting the temple to make merit, honour their relatives and “spring clean” their houses before entering the streets. Then the fun begins with water thrown over everyone passing by. The days of the traditional gentle pouring over the hands as a blessing have long since gone; replaced by water pistols and and buckets, but it’s all very good natured and lots of fun. A great way to meet both locals and other travellers.

The Pattaya Festival
Usually a week after the Songkran festivities in Bangkok, this is a riotous celebration with parades, floats, beauty contests, food festivals, and a spectacular fireworks display.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Presided over by the King and Queen at Sanam Luang in Bangkok, this ancient Brahmin festival marks the beginning of the rice-planting season. Predictions are made about weather and harvests for the coming year on the basis of which of the selected foods the sacred cows choose.

The Visakha Bucha – Nationwide.
Marked by night-time processions of worshippers around almost every temple in the kingdom, this festival celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing of Lord Buddha.

The Yasothon Rocket Festival
Villagers from the poor northeastern province of Yasothon compete with each other to make the biggest, most explosive bamboo rockets during this annual rainmaking festival. Prizes are awarded for the rocket that reaches the highest trajectory.

The Candle Festival
Coinciding with Asalaha Bucha, this festival sees the streets of Ubon Ratchathani filled with processions of huge, beautifully carved beeswax candles, some of them several metres tall, that are to be presented to local temples. (July 13-14, 2003 at Tung Sri Muang, Muang District, Ubon Ratchathani Province)

The Birthday of Her Majesty the Queen – Nationwide.
Also marking Mother’s Day in Thailand, the 12th of August see the towns and villages of the country festively decorated with lights and portraits of the Queen.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival
This ten day Chinese festival in Phuket has become world-famous for the gory pictures of people impaling their faces and bodies with everything from swords, spears and even fish. Apparently unable to feel pain and in a trance-like state, these people of Chinese ancestry parade in the streets with the various arrays of sharp objects still protruding from their flesh. A little less gory are the beauty pageants, fairs and food stalls that line the streets of Phuket town. (September 25-October 5, 2003 Phuket Town)

The Wax Castle Festival
The end of Buddhist Lent is marked by the people in the northeast of Thailand with the creation of miniature beeswax Buddhist temples and shrines. These “wax castles” help them to gain merit, which will determine their future rebirth. Sakon Nakhon has one of the most spectacular festivals with a grand wax procession, boat races and traditional northeastern cultural performances.

The Chon Buri Buffalo Races
A chance for buffalos to do more than just plough fields as they compete in races and contests pitting the strength of man against that of his faithful farm animal.

The Loy Krathong – Nationwide
The most beautiful of the Thai festivals, when all waterways, canals, rivers, coastal areas are illuminated by thousands of candles placed on floating kratongs. Held on full moon night each November, Wan Loy Kratong, in total contrast to Songkran, it’s a very gentle festival.
The Kratongs or boats, created from the trunk of a banana tree and decorated with flowers candles and incense, are made in advance, ready to float upon the water. Prayers are said so that the krathong will float away, taking all bad spirits, bad luck and sins along with it. Many hotels in throughout the country often host a special evening so that guests can join in.

The Surin Elephant Roundup
With tug-o-wars, demonstrations of logging skills, ancient warfare parades, and even games of football, the elephants of Surin entertain the crowds of visitors to this north eastern town.

The Birthday of His Majesty the King – Nationwide
Flags, lights and portraits of His Majesty the King adorn the streets and building of every town and village on the 5th and the occasion is marked by a huge and spectacular fireworks display near the Grand Palace.

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