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Major Holidays in Thailand and Timeless Gift Traditions

Welcome to the enchanting world of Thailand. A country with a rich cultural tapestry, diverse landscapes and fascinating history. It is unlike many of the neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. With a myriad of festivals and holidays – Thailand hosts one of the highest numbers of holiday celebrations in the world. From the water-throwing festival of Songkran, to the fairy-tale floating offerings of Loy Krathong, Thailand boasts a plethora of magical events and holidays. 

Theravada Buddhism is the national religion of the country, and lunar patterns and the phases of the moon determine many of these holidays. Therefore it is common for the dates to vary from year to year. Some commemorate significant events in the country’s history, while others are Buddhist religious observances. Whether you’re looking to learn about Thai culture and Buddhist rituals, or pay your respects on religious holidays, here are our recommendations for unmissable holidays in Thailand.

Monks release lanterns into the sky during a holiday in Thailand.

What are the Main Holidays in Thailand?

Thailand was one of the countries in Southeast Asia that avoided colonization in the nineteenth century, making its traditions and religious observances unique and authentic. Almost all Buddhist holidays and festivals in Thailand are based on the Thai Lunar Calendar, which is rather different to the internationally recognised Gregorian/Solar calendar.. 

Holidays in Thailand follow the cycles of the moon. A complete cycle from the new moon to the full moon is 29 and a half days, which means that their months alternate between 29 and 30 days. Based on this calendar, Thailand is 543 ahead!  

Thailand celebrates the Thai New Year, called Songkran in April. This nation-wide celebration symbolizes a ritual of cleansing and bringing in good luck for the year ahead. If you already know when you’re going to Thailand, we’ll give you some holidays to look forward to!

Songkran Festival

Songkran is the other largest – and arguably the best – national holiday in Thailand. The huge celebration for Thai New Year takes the form of a massive, country-wide water fight! Songkran is also one of the most significant Buddhist holidays in Thailand. It’s important to remember that although water fights and celebrations can get raucous – one should be respectful when visiting religious sites around this time.

Songkran festival dates

The festival takes place on the 13th – 15th April every year.

Significance and history

Songkran was the official new year in Thailand from the late 1800’s up until 1941. After 1941, Thailand synchronized with the Western Calendar and celebrated New Year on January 1st. Songkran has remained a festival to celebrate the new year but they also celebrate the new year with the rest of the world. 

One of the most important elements of the Songkran festival is water. The Thai people believe that water is spiritually purifying. It cleanses you of any bad luck or grievances from the past, and blesses you with good fortune and happiness for the year ahead. The tradition began in the 13th century, when religious rituals such as sprinkling water over Buddha statues took place to symbolize washing away the bad deeds of the previous year. 

Customs and traditions

Today, people throw water by the bucketload, and whether you’re Thai or a foreigner, you are guaranteed to get soaked! While many religious rituals still take place on this day, Songkran has now adapted to include a kingdom-wide water fight! Water guns, water balloons and buckets fill the streets. Anyone and everyone, including tourists are at risk of getting wet.

Other than the water fight, you can enjoy traditional Thai performances and learn more about this history of Songkran. Fun-filled activities include beauty contests, carnivals, and parades. 

Gift-giving practices during Songkran

Songkran is not only a time of water festivals and vibrant celebrations but also an occasion for expressing gratitude and goodwill through gift-giving. During this festive period, it’s common for people to exchange gifts that symbolize prosperity, such as traditional Thai crafts or baskets of tropical fruits. For those living abroad, sending gifts to loved ones in Thailand can keep you connected. Gift Baskets Overseas offers a convenient way to convey your warm wishes, with options like beautifully arranged bouquets of flowers or gourmet gift baskets featuring a mix of local and international delicacies. These gifts are not only appreciated but also enhance the festive spirit of Songkran.

Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong is one of Thailand’s largest festivals and is celebrated throughout the entire country. It takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai Lunar calendar. This date usually falls in November. Known as Thailand’s “Festival of Lights”, this holiday is one of the country’s most important events along with Songkran (Thai New Year). But instead of candle-lit lanterns that reach the night sky, Loy Krathong Festival involves water lanterns called “krathongs” that are released and are believed to carry away misfortunes and ill luck. 

The Loy Krathong holiday in Thailand is celebrated with floating lanterns filled with flowers and incense.

Origins and cultural significance

On the full moon, people gather around lakes, canals and rivers to pay respect to the goddess of water. “Pra Mae Khongkha พระแม่คงคา” and to ask for forgiveness. It is believed that if the candle on your krathong manages to stay alight until you can no longer see it, this signifies that you will have good luck in the next year. 

In Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River is the center of the Loy Krathong celebrations with cultural performances, boat processions, krathong-making workshops, firework displays and many other activities taking place. The banks of the rivers are lined with people, crouched down and saying prayers. Elsewhere in Thailand, rivers, lakes and the beachfront are where you’ll see people floating their krathongs.

Rituals and activities during the festival

To celebrate, people spend days creating their floating rafts. It can be made of anything, but traditionally it is made from banana leaves and banana tree trunks. The base of the krathong is covered with green leaves and adorned with flowers and garlands. A candle and incense stick are placed in the middle and lit before the lantern is pushed into the water with good wishes. Many Thais say that releasing the lantern is a way to send their problems away.

Traditional gifts exchanged during Loy Krathong

Gifts that complement the festival’s themes of renewal and spiritual cleansing are highly valued. Traditional gifts include handcrafted krathongs, scented candles, and incense sets, which reflect the contemplative nature of the holiday. For those who want to send their blessings from afar, international gift delivery can offer an array of suitable options such as floral arrangements that mirror the festival’s gentle beauty, or spa gift baskets that encourage relaxation and rejuvenation. These thoughtful gifts are a wonderful way to participate in the spirit of Loy Krathong.

Thai New Year (Thailand’s Official New Year)

Thailand is known to celebrate the New Year three times over, the Chinese New Year, the traditional Thai New Year, and the Western New Year on January 31st. Thailand still celebrates with the rest of the world and involves many of the staples of the holiday that Westerners are familiar with. 

Celebration dates and customs

Bangkok is where you’ll find the biggest party atmosphere, with plenty of rooftop bars hosting New Year’s Eve parties. In Chiang Mai, the celebrations are more traditional, featuring candle lit lantern ceremonies, Thai dance performances, pop shows and fireworks. 

On the island of Phuket, Kata Beach and Surin beach are transformed into parties on the shore, with barbecues, live music and dancing. Meanwhile, the beach destination Pattaya is home to one of the wildest New Year’s events – the Full Moon Party Koh Phangan. 

Unique gift traditions associated with Thai New Year

Celebrating the New Year in Thailand is a vibrant affair, marked by unique traditions and festive merriment. As Thais welcome the upcoming year, gift-giving plays a significant role in reinforcing bonds and sharing joy. Unique gifts that capture the essence of this celebration include hand-painted umbrellas from Chiang Mai, which symbolize protection and prosperity, or artisan-crafted silver jewelry that reflects Thai craftsmanship. 

For those living abroad, sending gifts to Thailand during the New Year helps maintain a heartfelt connection with family and friends. One can choose from luxurious gift hampers filled with fine wines and gourmet snacks, or elegant orchid arrangements that add a touch of Thai beauty to the celebration. 

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Every year in the first week of February, Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai explodes in floral wonder. At the end of the winter season, blooms indigenous to Chiang Mai and its surrounds are in abundance. The three-day festival turns the city into a profusion of color and joy, with a parade of elaborately decorated flower floats winding their way through town. 

The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is one of the most celebrated holidays in Thailand.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival dates

The festival takes place on the first weekend of February and lasts 3 days.

Overview of the festival

To see these stunning botanical displays, uniformed marching bands and dancers donning traditional Thai dress, head to the public garden of Suan Buak Haad. There you will find vendors selling flowers, plants and garden decorations, as well as a plethora of street food stalls. 

The biggest parade takes place on the Saturday morning, with huge floats, traditional dances and music. Many young girls sit atop these floats, waving to the crowd – these are the candidates for the Chiang Mai Flower Festival Queen.

Flower-themed Gifts and Souvenirs

A vibrant celebration of the region’s botanical beauty, this festival showcases a multitude of floral varieties, including the emblematic yellow and white chrysanthemums and the exquisite Damask rose. These flowers, representing longevity and purity respectively, are central to creating meaningful gifts and souvenirs. Attendees often seek items like elaborate floral arrangements, live plants, and paintings and textiles. 

Additionally, locally produced rose-scented oils and handcrafted chrysanthemum tea sets are popular choices, capturing the essence and fragrance of the festival. For those unable to attend, sending a gift internationally is a great way to share the festival’s floral bounty. Send beautifully themed gifts that convey the spirit of this exceptional event to loved ones around the world.

Traditional Thai Gift-Giving Customs

In Thailand, gift-giving is deeply ingrained in social culture, serving as a gesture of respect and gratitude. Gifts are often presented during festivals, family gatherings, and significant life events. Typically the presentation and thoughtfulness of the gift being as important as the gift itself.

Etiquette and symbolism behind Thai gifts

Etiquette in Thai gift-giving emphasizes modesty and respect. The choice of gift often carries symbolic meaning, with certain colors and items favored for specific occasions. For example, gold and yellow are considered auspicious, while sharp objects like knives are avoided as they symbolize severing relationships.

Popular Gift Choices for Different Occasions

For various occasions, Thais choose gifts that reflect both the event’s significance and the recipient’s preferences. Common gifts include flowers for celebrations, handcrafted items for personal milestones, and gourmet baskets for festive gatherings.

Modern Trends in Thai Gift-Giving

As Thailand embraces modernity, its gift-giving traditions are evolving. New trends are influenced by technology, globalization, and changing lifestyles are reshaping how, when, and what gifts are given. It is now common for gifts to blend contemporary ideas with age-old customs.

The Rise of Online shopping and its Impact on Gift-giving Practices

The convenience of online shopping has dramatically transformed Thai gift-giving practices. With the ability to shop 24/7 and access a wider range of products, Thais can now send gifts more spontaneously and to more distant recipients, making it easier to maintain relationships across distances.

Blending Traditional values with Contemporary Gifting Trends

Despite the influx of modern influences, traditional values still play a crucial role in Thai gift-giving. Today, many opt for gifts that combine both tradition and modernity, such as artisan-crafted items with contemporary designs, or traditional sweets presented in stylish ways. 

Thailand’s cultural tapestry is reflected in its diverse array of holidays and the accompanying gift-giving traditions. Each holiday in Thailandl is steeped in history and religious significance, offering both locals and tourists a glimpse into the spiritual and communal life of the Thai people.

As Thailand continues to evolve, so too do its practices around gift-giving. This blend of tradition and modernity not only makes Thai festivals a magnet for global visitors but also enriches the experience of giving and receiving gifts. Which makes each occasion a meaningful exchange of cultural values and personal sentiments.

You’ve learned more about holidays in Thailand; now what?