The holiday calendar in Thailand can seem rather full. It must include all the Thai religious holidays, plus certain days connected with the Thai monarchy and political system. These holidays are generally only given to government workers and bank employees. Some other workers may be given extra pay in lieu of a holiday, but they usually continue working. Consequently, these holidays do not inconvenience travelers unless they want to use a government service. And while the main branches will close, banks located in shopping centers usually stay open. Foreign exchange booths will be open as normal. One thing the traveler may notice is that on certain holidays bars and nightclubs will close and some, though not all restaurants may refuse to serve alcohol. If holidays fall on a weekend, substitution days are used. And if holidays fall near a weekend extra days may be added, at the discretion of the government.
Some of these holidays are occasions when people return to their home towns and villages for religious ceremonies or family gatherings. This can cause problems with transportation on these days. The good news is that some of these holidays also provide opportunities for those wishing to view or take part in the colorful ceremonies often associated with them.
Thai religious minorities may observe their own holidays, although these are not actually public holidays. Examples would be Chinese New Year, Christmas and Eid Al-Fitr. Some shops and businesses may close on these days. There are also local holidays such as Inthakin in Chiang Mai, the Vegetarian festival in Phuket and the Naga Fireball festival in Nong Khai.
For kindergartens (anuban), primary schools (phratom) and secondary or high schools (mathayom) the school year generally begins on the nearest Monday to May 16, following a six week break. The year has two semesters or terms, broken by a two week break in October. Principals have some discretion with regard to exact start and finish dates. Also, schools may open a little earlier at the start of the year to allow for teacher preparation and parent-teacher meetings. Universities and colleges follow a slightly different schedule. For exact timings it is always best to consult with the individual school.
The Thai Calendar
Thailand uses a lunar calendar to calculate religious holidays. For all other purposes the familiar Western Gregorian calendar is used, except that each year is calculated from the death of the Buddha in 543 BC. Thus, 2010 in the Western calendar is 2553 in the Thai calendar..
Thailand Public Holidays 2011 (2554 Buddhist Calendar)
These are the main Thai public holidays for 2011 (2554 Buddhist Calendar). On all of these days, (except for Loy Kratong), you will find government offices, post offices, schools, and some banks closed. Remember that some of these dates are provisional and may be changed nearer the time.
Monday, January 3, 2011 – New Year’s Day
This is a substitution day as New Year’s Day falls on a Saturday.
Friday, February 18, 2011 – Makha Bucha Day
The Makha Bucha Thai holiday celebrates a famous sermon of the Buddha, in which the main Buddhist principles were first set out, and it is always held on the full moon of the third lunar month in the Thai Lunar Calendar. Incidentally, any day with a full moon (known in Thai as Wan Phra) is regarded as auspicious, and many Thai people will visit their local temple on those days.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 – Chakri Day
This Thai public holiday marks the founding of the Thai royal Chakri dynasty, more than two hundred years ago.
Wednesday-Friday, April 13-15, 2011 – Songkran
Songkran is the famous (or infamous) festival where water is splashed (or sometimes sprayed at high pressure) over just about everyone. Entire villages, towns and cities take part and everyone from children to grandparents take part in the fun. Songkran is celebrated over three days, although informal celebrations may begin a day or two ahead of schedule. It may be difficult to find accommodation or transportation for the whole of this week. Book ahead, and bring plenty of dry clothes!
Thursday, May 5, 2011 – Coronation Day
This celebrates the coronation of the revered Thai monarch, His Majesty King Bhumipol.
TBA – Royal Ploughing Ceremony
The ceremony is held at the Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace in Bangkok, but schools and government offices are closed all over Thailand. The actual date has yet to be announced by the Royal Household Bureau, but it will be held some time during early May.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 – Visaka Bucha Day
Held on the full moon of the sixth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar, Visaka Bucha Day this holiday celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha.
Friday, July 15, 2011 – Asana Bucha Day
This celebrates the first day of the rains retreat when monks must return to their temples. It is held on the full moon of the eighth lunar month.
Saturday, July 16, 2011 – Wan Khao Pansa
The day following Asana Bucha Day is the beginning of the Buddhist lent period. A public holiday may be given on the following Monday. Many urban Thais return to their home villages at this time, so expect the bus and train stations to be busy over the weekend. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WanKaoPansa
Friday, August 12, 2011 – The Queen’s Birthday
Her Majesty Queen Sikrit‘s birthday is also Mother’s Day. Department Stores and restaurants are often full of Thai families on this Thai public holiday.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011 – Wan Ok Pansa
Wan Ok Pansa is the end of the rains retreat, and is always held on the first day of the waning moon of the eleventh lunar month.
Monday, October 24, 2011 – Chulalongkorn Day
A substitution public holiday because this year Chulalongkorn Day falls on a Sunday.. King Chulalongkorn was a modernizing monarch who is credited with saving Thailand’s independence during a period of Western imperial expansion. His picture often appears in shops, next to those of the present royal family.
Thursday, November 10, 2011 – Loy Kratong
Loy Kratong is the justly famous festival of light, when candles and incense offerings (Kratong) are floated down rivers and small hot air balloons (Khom Loy) are launched into the air. Not actually an official public holiday, but nevertheless a very busy period, especially in Chiang Mai, Ayudhya and Sukothai, where the celebrations can take place over several days.
Monday, December 5, 2011 – The King’s Birthday
December is full of public holidays, starting with this one, His Majesty King Bhumipol‘s birthday. This is also Father’s Day in Thailand.
Monday, December 12, 2011 – Constitution Day
Constitution Day celebrates the beginning of constitutional monarchy in Thailand in 1932. This is a substitution as Constitution Day actually falls on the Saturday.
Monday, January 2, 2012 – New Year’s Eve
Yes, New Year’s Eve is also a government holiday, and all government offices are closed. As New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday the public holiday is moved to the following Monday. Similarly, New Year’s Day 2012 is moved to Tuesday, January 3, 2012. This will make for a very long and festive weekend. Happy New Year!