Official Holidays in Thailand
Government and bank workers get at least 15 holidays a year. During these times you will not be able to access any government services. Simple banking should not be a problem. Branches in shopping malls normally stay open, and all ATMs operate as usual. Foreign exchange booths normally also stay open. However, remember if planning to renew a visa, or send something from a post office, or use the main branch of a bank, not to go on these days.
Also, some of these holidays, particularly the Buddhist religious holidays, are times when people return to their families and villages, making travel on these days difficult, though many shops and most restaurants stay open. And many Thai holidays can be colorful celebrations that provide good opportunities both for taking pictures and even taking part yourself.
Changing Dates on the Calendar
Some public holidays are celebrated on the same date every year, for example most of the holidays that celebrate the monarchy or the constitution. If these holidays fall on a weekend, the actual holiday is usually shifted to the following Monday. The religious holidays, on the other hand, are calculated according to the Thai lunar calendar. One holiday, the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, is actually fixed in consultation with royal astrologers. At the time of writing, the date of this event has yet to be announced. Occasionally, the government can grant extra days. These can be granted with little advance notice.
Regional and Special Holidays
Apart from the main public holidays, in Thailand there are religious holidays that are only observed by certain minority groups, such as Chinese New Year, Eid Al-Fitr and Christmas. Businesses owned my members of these religious groups can close on these days. There are also local celebrations that are only observed in certain Thai cities, such as Inthakin in Chiang Mai, the Vegetarian festival in Phuket and the Naga Fireball festival in Nong Khai.
The school year in Thailand usually begins on the Monday nearest May 16, following a six week break. The year consists of two semesters or terms, broken by a short two week holiday in October. Individual principals have a certain amount of discretion over holiday dates. The above information refers to government nursery schools and kindergartens (anuban), primary schools (phratom) and secondary or high schools (mathayom). Colleges and universities may follow different schedules. It is always best to consult the individual institution.
The Thai Buddhist Calendar
The Thai people use the Thai lunar calendar to calculate religious holidays. For other purposes the Western Gregorian calendar is used. The only difference is that the number of each year is calculated from the death of the Buddha in 543 BC, so that 2012 is 2555. This is the system used by the government and in legal documents and is known as the Thai Solar Calendar.
Thailand Public Holidays 2012 (2555 Buddhist Calendar)
These are the main Thai public holidays for 2012 (2555 Buddhist Calendar). On all of these days, (except for Loy Krathong), you will find government offices, post offices, schools, and some banks closed. Please remember that some of these holiday dates, especially those of the religious holidays, are provisional and may be changed nearer the time to be held.
New Year’s Day
Tuesday, January 3, 2012. This holiday is a substitution day as New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, and New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday. You can see that this will make for a long and festive 4-day weekend.
Chinese New Year in Thailand
Monday, January 23, 2012. Chinese New Year is celebrated in Thailand by many Thai people of Chinese descent.
Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Friday-Sunday, February 3-5, 2012. Every year on the first weekend of February, the Chiang Mai Flower Festival exhibitions open. Parades, contests and the Miss Chiang Mai Flower Festival competition take place over several days.
Makha Bucha Day
Wednesday, Mar 7, 2012. The Makha Bucha Thai holiday celebrates the most famous sermon of the Buddha, in which all the main Buddhist principles were first set out, and 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 especially auspicious, and many Thai buddhists visit their local temple on those days.
Songkran – Water Festival (Thai New Year)
Friday-Tuesday, April 13-17, 2012. Songkran is the famous (or infamous) festival where water is splashed (or sometimes sprayed at high pressure) over just about everyone. Everyone from children to grandparents participates. Songkran takes place 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. This year, the Monday and Tuesday are substitute public holidays since two days of Songkran fall on a weekend.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 is Labor Day in Thailand. Not a lot of fuss is made about this holiday. Government offices, and also some banks and businesses may be closed
Saturday, May 5, 2012. This celebrates the coronation of the revered and long serving Thai monarch, His Majesty King Bhumipol.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Actual Date to be announced. The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is held at the Sanam Luang in Bangkok, but schools and government offices are closed all over Thailand. The actual date has yet to be announced by the royal astrologers, but it will be held some time during early May. The current best guess is Thursday, May 10, 2012.
Rocket Festival- Isaan
Friday, Saturday and Sunday in mid-May. Rocket festivals have been a part of the Northeastern Thailand festival calendar for several decades. The most prominent of these takes place in Yasathon, where it has been observed since 1972. It draws on the ancient rain festivals, which have been held in Isaan for centuries.
Phi Ta Khon – Ghost Festival
Sixth or seventh lunar month, exact date set by mediums (between March and July). The Ghost Festival is part of Bun Luang, a three-day event held in Dan Sai, of Loei province in Isaan. The date varies from year to year, but it always falls sometime between March and July.
Inthakin City Pillar Festival
TBD. Inthakin, the City Pillar Festival, is a significant six day celebration held every year in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Visaka Bucha Day
Monday, June 4, 2012. Held on the full moon of the sixth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar, Visaka Bucha Day celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha.
Hungry Ghost Festival
Full moon of the seventh lunar month according to the Chinese lunar calendar (Mid to late August). Chinese communities in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival.
Pu Sae Ya Sae Festival
Full moon of the seventh lunar month (May or June). Pu Sae Ya Sae is a particularly macabre Chiang Mai festival not for the squeamish or faint-hearted.
Asana Bucha and Wan Khao Pansa
Thursday, August 2, 2012 is Asana Bucha. This celebrates the first day of the rains retreat when monks return to their temples. It is held on the full moon of the eighth lunar month.
Friday, August 3, 2012 is Wan Khao Pansa. The day following Asana Bucha Day is the the beginning of the Buddhist lent period. A public holiday may be given on the following Monday. Many urban Thai people return to their home villages at this time. Expect the bus and train stations to be busy over the weekend.
H.M. The Queen’s Birthday
Monday, August 13, 2012. 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, and transportation can be impacted. In fact her birthday is on Sunday, August 12, so the 13th is a substitution day.
Mid Autumn (Moon) Festival
Sunday, September 30, 2012. The Mid Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is held everywhere there is a large Chinese community. Thailand is no exception. Enjoy the Moon Cakes which can be found in abundance.
Sunday-Tuesday, October 14-23, 2012. The Thailand Vegetarian Festival officially starts on the new moon of October 15, but some events begin the day before.
Naga Fireball Festival
Monday-Tuesday, October 29-30, 2012. Two-day Naga Fireball festival in Nong Khai, Thailand.
Wan Awk Pansa
Tuesday, October 30, 2012. Wan Awk Pansa is the end of the rains retreat, and is held on the first day of the waning moon of the eleventh lunar month.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012. The much revered King Chulalongkorn was a modernizing monarch who is credited with saving Thailand from European domination. His picture often appears in shops, next to those of the present royal family.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012. Loy Krathong is the beautiful and renowned festival of light, when candles and incense offerings (Krathong) 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, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, where the celebrations take place over several days. Celebrations are now held throughout Thailand including Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya.
H.M. The King’s Birthday
Wednesday, December 5, 2012. This holiday, His Majesty King Bhumipol’s birthday, is also Father’s day in Thailand.
Monday, December 10, 2012. Constitution Day celebrates the adoption of constitutional monarchy in Thailand in 1932.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012. Christmas is not an official holiday, but many aspects of the season will be in evidence throughout Thailand. Christmas trees and decorations will be everywhere and the churches throughout the Kingdom will be open for services. Travelers and expats can find a traditional Christmas dinner in many restaurants and pubs, especially in well-touristed areas.