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Thai festivals and history

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Visakha Bucha Day

Celebrated on the 15th day of the 6th month (lunar calendar and full moon). It is one of the 3 memorial days in the life of Buddha and we can proudly say that it is part of world Heritage as it is recognised by Unesco !

Makha Bucha Day:

Happens on the 15th day of the 3rd month (lunar year and again, full moon). This is to remember the first day Buddha started to teach again after his 9 months of enlightment. He started here to explain the core of his teachings which I can simply state as : Do good, don’t do bad and clean your mind

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Asalha Bucha Day:

Again we celebrate this on day 15, but of the 8th month and again on full moon. It is also refered to as Dharma Day.

Khaw Phansa Day:

We start celebrating this when the moon starts waning, on the first day, typically in the eight month. It is also the beginning of the retreat of the monks , for 3 months, every year. They stay in their monasteries for this periode and it goes back to ancient times when the monks needed to travel a lot. The travel ban assured they would not be stepping on the newly planted farming lands.

Songkran:

This is celebrated in April and it is one of the 3 new years we actually celebrate in Thailand.(Chinese new year, Songkran and western new year) We really love celebrations ????. Songkran is our own, Thai new year. It is a time when we visit temples, donate food to monks and honor our elders. This is done, traditionally by pouring water over their hands. But, with times, this has escalated in a crazy water festival where everyone holds water fights and throws water over anybody. When you visit Thailand during SongKran (usually it takes 3 days) then you should expect to get wet. Dress accordingly ???? . The water fun is actually not to inconvenient as it also the hottest period in Thailand.

Loy Krathong:

Loy Krathong is held at night in month 12 (and again at full moon). This usually falls in the month of November as per Western calendar. When we celebrate, we light candles and incense sticks and place them on a lotus shaped vessel that can float in water (called a Krathong) together with other things (food, flowers,..) This is then floated in the water of a river or a canal. The one who lets it float then makes a wish and the candle is supposed to keep buring till the Krathong is no longer visible. The burning of the candle symbolizes release of sin, living long and fulfillement of wishes.

Raek Na:

This is translated in English to the ‘Ploughing festival ‘. It goes when Buddha got his first enlightment when he was 7. The festival happens in month 6 which is the month of May as in the Gregorian calendar. The festival also marks the beginning of the rice planting season and it is held in Bangkok. The festival is presided over by His Majesty, the king, who also appoints a person to carry out the rites and he is called the Lord of the Festival, The rites indicate the amount of rain that will fall and the crop that will give best yield.

Chang Thai Day:

On March 13th, we celebrate our national animal, the elephant.

History of Thailand

The geographic area of Thailand has been inhabited for a very long time, but the first real Thai kingdom, with Buddhism as main religion, was founded in the 13th century. In the 14th century we saw the rise of a new kingdom, at the banks of the river north of what is now modern day Bangkok. This expanded to become the Ayutthaya capital of the Siam kingdom. Siam is the old and original name of Thailand. So you should remember this as in many texts you will see references to Siam. After attacks and raids of the Burmese, the capital was moved first to Thonburi and finally Rattanokosin where it grew into the Bangkok of now. A matter of pride for Thai is that Thailand never was conquered by the European colonialists, it always remained independent. We had to give some concessions but firmly remained an independent nation. The 1932 revolution led to new constitution by King Prajadhipok and finally in 1939 our kingdoms name changed from Siam to Thailand.

In the second world war, Thailand made a deal with Japan to help against the allies because the Japanese gave us back the territories that we had to give to the British in 1909. We were not conquered by the Japanese though. A notorious railroad was build between Thailand and Burma by the Japanese in the worldwar and it was better known as the death railroad because it was build by slave labor, performed by allied prisoners of war. You might have seen the film : ‘Bridge on the river Kwai’ , which recounts a particular episode of this slave work. The bridge now is a tourist attraction and you can follow specific parts of the railroad as an open air museum. After Worldwar 2, Thailand had many military coups. This does give us sometimes a bad reputation on freedom and economic growth, but in all we can say that Thailand has grown to become a modern democracy that is one of the main drivers of economic growth in the South East Asian region.

Thailand Culture Basics: We use nicknames. This is something you will certainly experience when you meet Thai people. It is not something we invented for Western tourists, but it is something we have been doing a long time. Our ‘official’ names are sometimes very long and complex and Thai is a monosyllabic language, so you will understand that this is a bit contractionary. Hence why almost everyone has a nickname. These nicknames are short and to the point, sometimes even funny. Examples are ‘Benz’ (a famous Thai car importer, married to a Thai movie star ) , or ‘Boss’ ( the son of the Red Bull business empire who is known to avoiding court for killing a policeman while driving his supercar.) But, on a more personal note, my nickname is ‘Khloy’ and my friends are ‘Joy’ and ‘Tuck’ , my sister is ‘Praew’

Traditional Thai Culture: mostly traditional culture is not experienced by tourists, except for the obvious things like the respect and veneration of our King or Monks/religion. But if you do get invited by a Thai family, it might happen you will get to see the more traditional Thai way.

Young Thai nowadays are ‘westernizing’ or ‘South Koreanizing’ . The Thai obsession with beauty is something we get from South Korea, K-Pop adoration aswell. The displays of open affection are western influences.

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