World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia - Vol. 5

By Paul Bernabeo | Go to book overview

Festivals and Ceremonies

Some public holidays in Thailand are marked on the lunar calendar; as a result, they fall on different days each year in the Western calendar. These holidays tend to be associated with the Buddhist religion, which is followed by the majority of Thais, or are other traditional festivals. Modern public holidays are marked on the Western calendar.

Thais celebrate three New Year's Days. January 1 is a public holiday, and in modern times. Thais exchange small gifts to mark the New Year, when people living in the city often return to their home village. Thailand's ethnic Chinese community celebrates Chinese New Year, which usually falls in February, with fireworks, parties, and lion dances, while Thai New Year (Songkran) is a three-day festival, usually in April. Songkran is celebrated throughout the country with rituals that are designed to make merit (Buddhist Thais aim to earn merit in this fife to secure a better incarnation in the next life). Merit-making for Songkran may involve cleaning the home and honoring elders (relatives as well as any other senior person in the community). Songkran celebrations also have a lighter side; there are often entertainments, parades of dancers and musicians, and boat races. Songkran was originally a water festival, and boisterous celebrations include splashing water on unwary passersby.


TRADITIONAL FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS

The Rocket Festival (Ngan Bun Bang Fail is held in May in Isan (northeastern Thailand). People launch rockets made from bamboo into the sky to appease the gods, asking for rain. The festival, which is not a public holiday, includes dances and folk music. The Festival of Light (Loy Krathong) in November is a night festival when people float models called krathongs, shaped like lotus flowers, down streams and other waterways. Each krathong carries a lit candle. This festival is particularly popular in northern Thailand. The Surin Elephant Festival is a local celebration in the province of Surin in Isan; elephants are rounded up and take part in competitions such as races, elephant soccer, and mock battles.

Magha Bucha (in February) marks the occasion when many followers spontaneously gathered to hear the Buddha preach. Asahara Bucha, which is not a public holiday, celebrates the clay when the Buddha preached his first sermon. Visakha Bucha (in May), the most important Buddhist public holiday in Thailand, simultaneously commemorates the birth, Enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. At night, worshippers flock to temples, where they process in the ordination hall (hot) holding candles, incense sticks, or lotus flowers. Khao Phansa is the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month. On this public holiday at the start of the rainy season, monks take a vow to remain in their temple to begin a three-month retreat. Worshippers bring offerings to the temple, and there are candlelit parades to the local monastery. By custom, Thai boys and young men enter the monkhood on a temporary basis on Khao Phansa; temporary monkhood is a Thai rite of passage. The end of this three month retreat is called Ok Phansa. On this day, people offer food and gifts to the monks, and many families celebrate the return of their son from the monastery.


PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

Other public holidays in Thailand include Labor Day (May 1), the queen's birthday (August 12; also celebrated as Mothers' Day), Coronation Day (May 5), Constitution Day (December 10; the anniversary of the first Thai constitution of 1932. which marked the transition from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy), and New Year's Eve (December 31). Chakri Day (April 6) commemorates the foundation of the present Chakri dynasty. Flags are flown for Chakri Day, and the king and other members of the royal family attend a ceremony that is performed to give merit to deceased members of the family. Chulalongkorn Day (October 23) commemorates the reforming monarch King Chulalongkorn (or Rama V), who reigned from 1868 through 1910. The National Day is December 5, the anniversary of the birth in 1927 of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (or Rama IX). the present Thai monarch.

K. ROMANO-YOUNG


Sports

Soccer is a popular spectator sport, but the nation also has its
own sports, including kite fighting, fish fighting, the rattan
ball game, and Thai boxing. In kite fighting, competitors try to
down an opponent's kite. In the rattan ball game, competitors in
a circle attempt to keep the light ball aloft for as long as possible,
using their heads, elbows, and knees but not their hands. People
gamble on the outcome of fish fighting, in which two small Thai
fighting fish are placed in a glass jar to attack each other. This
sport is confined to country areas—it is, in theory, banned in the
cities. Muay Thai, known in the West as Thai boxing or kick
boxing, is the nation's traditional martial art.

-687-

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World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia - Vol. 5
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Country Locator for Volume 5 Myanmar and Thailand i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Geography and Climate 580
  • The Land of Myanmar and Thailand 582
  • Geology of Myanmar and Thailand 590
  • Climate of Myanmar and Thailand 594
  • Flora and Fauna of Thailand and Myanmar 598
  • History and Movement of Peoples 602
  • Sukhothai and Ayutthaya 604
  • Later Burmese Kingdoms 608
  • British Intervention in Burma 610
  • Peoples of Myanmar and Thailand 612
  • Myanmar (Burma) 614
  • Government 618
  • Modern History 620
  • War and Independence 623
  • Independent Burma 626
  • Modern Myanmar 628
  • Cultural Expression 630
  • Art and Architecture 632
  • Music and Performing Arts 636
  • Festivals and Ceremonies 638
  • Food and Drink 640
  • Daily Life 642
  • Family and Society 644
  • Welfare 646
  • Yangon (Rangoon) 648
  • Naypyidaw 650
  • Mandalay 651
  • Moulmein 652
  • Pegu 653
  • Economy 654
  • Thailand 662
  • Government 666
  • Modern History 668
  • Siam in Transition 670
  • The Age of Reform 672
  • War and Military Rule 674
  • Modern Thailand 676
  • Cultural Expression 678
  • Art and Architecture 680
  • Decorative Arts 683
  • Music and Performing Arts 684
  • Festivals and Ceremonies 687
  • Food and Drink 688
  • Daily Life 690
  • Family and Society 693
  • Health, Welfare, and Housing 695
  • Education 697
  • Bangkok 698
  • Chiang Mai 703
  • Nakhon Ratchasima 704
  • Udon Thani 705
  • Economy 706
  • Further Research 716
  • Index 718
  • World and Its Peoples 722
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