2020 has proven to be an interesting year for the Thai calendar. Due to the vast number of restrictions, curfews, and otherwise that were put into place due to the Covid-19 outbreak, some holidays were canceled or postponed. For those located in Thailand during this time, it was easy to feel the disappointment. However, for many people there were bigger problems to deal with. Here is a quick look at the calendar for the year 2020 in Thailand. Life must continue despite what is happening around the world and at home, after all.
Anyone who has read our previous post looking into how to read and say the dates of the Thai calendar will know that Thailand runs on the Buddhist Calendar, which follows the Solar calendar. To summarize, this means that the date in Thailand is currently 543 years ahead of what we say in the West. So the year 2020 is known as 2563 in Thailand. That is pretty much all there is to it.
They also have their own new year celebrations that generally take place in or around April in what is known as Songkran. However, the year actually moves forward on January 1st. This doesn’t stop people from celebrating the three to five day holiday during the hottest times of year. Even visitors enjoy getting in on the action. If there was any big reason to visit and learn Thai, other than the amazing food, this is it.
As in any country, Thailand observes a number of different national holidays. These can be split into different groups based on whether they are religious, government related, monarchy related or otherwise. Here are a few of the biggest holidays in of the 2020 Thai calendar:
1st January - New Year’s Day - Wan Khun Phi Mai (วันขึ้นปีใหม่)
Thailand celebrates New Year’s Day on the 1st of January, the same time in which the Thai calendars move forward.
10th February - Makha Bucha (วันมาฆบูชา)
This is one of the Buddhist holidays observed in Thailand - and an important one at that. In the evening, temples hold special events where they light candles and walk around the grounds. People will also give alms for good karma.
13th, 14th & 15th April (Canceled) - Songkran (วันสงกรานต์)
This is the Thai New Year. It is probably the most famous holiday due to the associated splashing of water and general celebrations that everyone gets involved with.
1st May - Labor Day - Wan Raeng Ngan Haengchaat (วันแรงงานแห่งชาติ)
Just like Labor Day elsewhere, it is a day that recognizes the labor movement and is dedicated to the hardworking laborers of the country. Most offices, both public and private, will be closed on this day.
6th May - Visakha Busha (วันวิสาขบูชา)
Another of the major Buddhist holidays observed in Thailand. Many people will choose to make merit at the temples, giving alms and walking around the grounds with candles. The focus is placed on charity and giving to those who are in need.
11th May - Royal Ploughing Ceremony - Wan Phuetcha Mongkhon (วันพืชมงคล)
This holiday has a long history dating back hundreds of years. It began as a ceremony to mark the traditional rice growing season. These days, it is a ceremony that the King presides over near the Grand Palace that sees government offices close for the day
3rd June - Queen Suthida’s Birthday - Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Somdet Phra Nang Chao Suthida Phatcharasutha Phimon Lak Phra Borommarachini (วันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสุทิดา พัชรสุธาพิมลลักษณ พระบรมราชินี)
This day is a celebration of the birthday of the Queen of Thailand. Queen Suthida was born in 1978 on this date. Expect government offices to be closed.
5th July - Asanha Bucha (วันอาสาฬหบูชา)
The third of the major Buddhist holidays that is observed in Thailand. Expect to find crowds of people heading to the temples to make merit and listen to sermons once more.
6th July - Buddhist Lent - Wan Khao Phansa (วันเข้าพรรษา)
This day marks the beginning of a three month period where monks must follow strict rules and dedicate a lot of time to intensive meditation. It is also a popular time for men to be ordained as a monk.
28th July - King Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday - Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Phrabat Somdet Phra Vajira Klao Chao Yu Hua (วันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาพระบาทสมเด็จพระวชิรเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว)
The King’s Birthday is understandably celebrated across the country. Having taken the throne in 2016, this date is relatively new to the Thai calendar.
12th August - Queen Mother Sirikit’s Birthday/Mother’s Day - Wan Chaloem Phra Chonmaphansa Somdet Phra Nang Chao Sirikit Phra Borommarachininat Phra Borommaracha Chanini Phanpi Luang (วันเฉลิมพระชนมพรรษาสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์ พระบรมราชินีนาถ พระบรมราชชนนีพันปีหลวง) / Wan Mae Haengchaat (วันแม่แห่งชาติ)
Just as King Bhumibol Adulyadej was popular amongst Thais as he reigned, his wife is similarly revered. In fact, she is seen somewhat as a mother for the nation, which is why her birthday is also used as a day to celebrate mothers.
13th October - King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great Memorial Day - Wan Khlai Wan Sawankot Phra Bat Somdet Phra Boromchanakathibet Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Maharaj Borommanatbophit (วันคล้ายวันสวรรคตพระบาทสมเด็จพระบรมชนกาธิเบศร มหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดชมหาราช บรมนาถบพิตร)
King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX, was the longest reigning King in Thailand, beginning in 1946 and ending on his passing in 2016. An understandably sad day, it is now a public holiday that gives people time to reflect on his reign.
23rd October - Chulalongkorn Day - Wan Piyamaharat (วันปิยมหาราช)
King Chulalongkorn is a highly regarded King who reigned until his death in 1910. He large role in shaping Thailand into what it is today, abolishing slavery and keeping Thailand independent.
5th December - King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Birthday/Father’s Day - Wan Khlai Wan Phra Boromracha Somphop Phrabat Somdet Phra Boromchanakathibet Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Maharaj Borommanatbophit (วันคล้ายวันพระบรมราชสมภพ พระบาทสมเด็จพระบรมชนกาธิเบศร มหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดชมหาราช บรมนาถบพิตร)
The 5th of December marks the anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birth in 1927. This day is also used as a day to celebrate fathers, a role that the King can be said to have played for many Thais. You will see his image everywhere across the country as a way to show respect and recognition of what he has done for the country.
10th December - Constitution Day - Wan Ratthathammanun (วันรัฐธรรมนูญ)
As the name suggests, this commemorates the day that the Thai constitution was promulgated permanently in 1932. People will take this day to pay respects to images of the King both current and previous.
31st December - New Year’s Eve - Wan Sin Pii (วันสิ้นปี)
Just as they celebrate New Year’s Day, they also observe New Year’s Eve. Again, celebrations for this occasion are not too different to how they are elsewhere.
Covid-19 has impacted how the holidays of the Thai calendar are celebrated
Perhaps the most notable event in 2020 was the Covid-19 outbreak. This virus made thousands of people ill in the country. As a way to stop the spread, they stopped essentially all incoming travellers from entering the Kingdom and put into place a curfew. Many different types of shops and locations were shut completely. As you can imagine, this affected peoples ability to properly celebrate the holidays.
Songkran was probably the biggest holiday that was impacted. It was very difficult to travel home to visit family and no water was allowed to be thrown. Even visiting temples to make merit was difficult. There is a lot of talk, at the time of writing, about the Songkran celebrations being moved to another time of year. While many people currently outside of Thailand will not be able to join in this year, it is good to know that people may be able to properly enjoy the Thai New Year.
Unfortunately, things were not quite as exciting as they usually are this year. The lack of visitors and the lockdown meant that community aspects of these holidays were not felt as strongly, making them somewhat less enjoyable. If you are able to visit Thailand this year, then I hope this Thai calendar will prove useful and that you can take part in one of the remaining holidays. Or at least, you know when to avoid traveling as things can get busy around these dates. There is a lot of culture and enjoyment to experience as others should be able to tell you.
Even when on holiday, you should keep up your Thai learning. Using the Ling Thai app, you can guide your learning as you discover new vocabulary to help you wish others happiness during the celebrations. Try Ling now for free.