Thailand, apart from being known as a favourite holiday destination, is also a country with deep and significant customs and traditions. The festivals of Thailand are celebrated with great fervour and devotion to keep these local traditions alive. Whether it’s Songkran, Phi Tha Kon, or Loy Krathong, these festivals are an integral part of the Thai cultural fabric and have become a great source of tourist attraction.

Thai people, being friendly and hospitable, are willing to welcome tourists and visitors to witness and become a part of their celebrations. Now, whether you wish to enrich your knowledge about Thai culture, partake in the festival, or wish to be a distant observer, below are the top 15 festivals in Thailand along with their month of occurrence.

A Celebration of Tradition: 15 Must-See Festivals in Thailand

1. Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is one of the biggest festivals in Thailand, owing to the huge Chinese population that lives there. Depending on the lunar calendar, it either falls in the month of January or February. It is that one festival that is awaited by locals, expats, and tourists. The best place to witness this festival is Yarowat Road, or Chinatown. The streets of Chinatown are brimming with merriment and excitement. For onlookers, they can witness dragon dances, fireworks, and red lanterns. Various stalls and outlets on Yarowat Street sell mouth-watering Chinese delicacies. And as a part of custom, it is important to visit temples and Chinese shrines to show respect. Apart from Yarowat Street in Bangkok, you can also experience the festivities of Chinese New Year in Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya, etc.

Chinese New Year Festival Dates: According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the dates for the Chinese New Year fall on the rise of the new moon that appears between January 21 and February 20. In 2024, the Chinese New Year festival was on Saturday, February 10.

2. Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

This splendid flower festival is a three-day event, taking place in the month of February in Chiang Mai province. The festival celebrates freshly bloomed flowers and decorative plants such as orchids, white and yellow chrysanthemums, damask roses, and a myriad of other blooming flowers.

A parade starts on a Saturday morning and goes on until late afternoon. There are various tableaus of flowers and plants that showcase the blooms of Chiang Mai. Marching bands, school students, drummers, and traditional Thai dancers perform along the tableaus while handing out flowers to people. You can go to Suan Buak Hat, where you can buy flowers and plants. Many young girls, dressed in beautiful attire, also take part in the Chiang Mai Flower Festival.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival dates: The Chiang Mai flower festival takes place on the first weekend in the month of February.

3. Songkran – Thai New Year

Songkran - Thai New Year

Songkran is Thailand’s most popular festival and marks the beginning of the Thai new year. It falls on April 13 each year, but the celebrations are extended up to a week. Songkran is also known as the Water Festival, as people splash water on each other to wash away the sins and negativity of the past year. The cleaning of houses and pouring water on Buddha statues and on each other symbolises getting rid of the old and starting fresh.

You will see people with water guns drenching each other in water from head to toe. There is also the Songkran music festival, which is held where huge crowds of people gather; they sing and dance together while huge water cannons from the stage splash water on them. This Buddhist holiday attracts many tourists in Thailand who want to be a part of this Thai experience. Irrespective of whether you’re a tourist, an expat, or a local, you are most likely to get drenched.

A Tip: If you plan to partake in the Songkran festival, keep your belongings, like your wallet and mobile phone, in plastic wrap. Wear sunglasses, hats, and waterproof SPF to protect your eyes and skin.

Songkran Dates in 2024: This year too, Songkran festival will be celebrated on the 13th of April, 2024.

4. Boon Bang – Rocket Festival

Boon Bang - Rocket Festival

An interesting festival to observe in Thailand is the Boon Bang or the Rocket festival, celebrated primarily between the farming community of Yasothon province. In this festival, rockets are designed beautifully and paraded in the streets of the city before launching them in the sky. The launching of rockets symbolises asking gods for ample rain to make the crops flourishing and bring abundance and prosperity to farmers. The first day of the festival marks the entire community coming together to take part in float processions, sing, dance and drink rice wine. On the the third and final day the rockets are launched in the sky and whosoever rocket soars the highest gets a prize for 10,000 THB.

Dates of Boon Bang Rocket Festival: The Boon Bang festival usually takes place in the second week of May.

5. Phi Tha Kon – Ghost Festival

Phi Tha Kon - Ghost Festival

One of the eccentric and eerie festivals in Thailand is the Phi Tha Kon, or ghost festival. It is a part of Thailand’s rich folklore. It is a Buddhist festival and lasts up to three days, with participants donning large, colourful, quirky masks with large noses. According to the Jataka tales, when the virtuous Prince Vessantara, considered the incarnation of Siddhartha Gautama, returned to his city, the devas or spirits of the village came forth and became a part of the grand celebrations. To commemorate such a joyous occasion each year, locals in the small town of Dan Sai dress up as ghosts.

Much like Halloween, it is believed that during this time both living and dead meet. This three-day festival typically begins on Friday and features vibrant processions, performances, and pageantry.

Phi Tha Kon, Ghost Festival dates: The dates of Phi Tha Kon festival change every year, it typically takes place between the months of March and July.

6. Ubon Ratchathani – Candle Festival

Ubon Ratchathani - Candle Festival

Located in the southeast part of Thailand, this glamorous festival is celebrated in the Ubon Ratchathani region. This festival constitutes the parading of wax sculptures to wat (temples) for Ashna Puja, which is a reverence paid towards Lord Buddha’s first sermon, and Wan Kao Pansa (which marks the beginning of vassa). The traditional way to commemorate this festival is when devotees donate candles, food, and other items for the personal use of monks. These candles would dispel gloom and darkness in Wat and everywhere else. The giant wax sculptures that are displayed in the beautiful processions are pictorial representations of scenes from Hindu and Buddhist scriptures.

Thailand Candle Festival Date: The Ubon Ratchathani Candle festival takes place in the month of July.

7. Mother’s Day

The people of Thailand are deeply reverent of their monarchy. To honour their queen mother, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, they celebrate her birthday on August 12th as “Mother’s day.” Being a public holiday, many Thai locals visit temples, donate to monks, and pray for the health and happiness of their mothers. In Thailand, festivities also extend in the form of parades, performances, and food stalls. Many schools in Thailand hold events to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day festival date: 12th August

8. Vegetarian Festival

Vegetarian Festival

The Vegetarian Festival is celebrated in Phuket Province and is also called the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. This festival is also known as Thailand’s Nine Emperor Gods Festival and is a Taoist festival celebrated in many Southeast Asian countries. As the name suggests, the festival is a nine-day abstinence from all meat, onions, garlic, alcohol, smoking, and other vices. However, in Phuket, this festival takes it to another level, where participants engage in body mortification like impaling, skinning, piercing, or lying on a bed of knives. This morbid side of the vegetarian festival comes from a Chinese legend where a group of opera singers got sick, and after they prayed and fasted for nine days, they were cured. The Jui Tui shrine in Phuket is one of the biggest sites to witness this festival; however, some people may find these practices icky.

Vegetarian festival date: The Festival takes place annually in September or October

9. Naga Fireballs Festival

Naga Fireballs Festival

Naga Fireballs is a mysterious festival in Thailand that occurs due to a scientific phenomenon. Every year, locals gather around the Mekong River to see the launch of glowing red ‘fireballs’ shoot up into the sky.

These luminous balls come up on the surface of the Mekong River and shoot up in the sky, some up to 30 metres high. This mysterious happening pulls in many locals and tourists to watch this awe-inspiring spectacle for themselves. Many Thai people who believe in folktales express that there are nagas, or serpents, living under the earth that release fireballs to invoke Buddha and ask for his presence to grace the earth once again.

Naga Fireballs Festival dates: The dates of Naga fireball festival fall between the months of October and November.

10. Lai Ruea Fai Festival

Lai Ruea Fai Festival

The Lai Ruea Fai Festival happens after the end of Buddhist Lent. It is an illuminated boat procession festival where elaborate boats are adorned with flowers, candles, and incense. These boar processions are an annual tradition for the people of Nakhon Phanom, who set out these boats as offerings to the naga that resided in the waters of the Mekong River.

Today, these boats are made of bamboo, and with the help of technology, they often display animation. They are made to be stable and buoyant. After that, the ornamental pieces are dipped in oil to act as fuel for the fire. And just like with many other Thai festivals, you can witness firecrackers, street food, cultural performances, and music.

Lui Ruea Fai Festival: The festival takes place annually in October or November

11. Loy Krathong Festival

Loy Krathong Festival

Loy Krathong is one of the most significant festivals in Thailand. Also known as the “Festival of Light,” it marks a national holiday in Thailand. As per the Thai lunar calendar, Loi Krathong takes place on the full moon evening of the twelfth month. During this festival, people gather around lakes, rivers, and canals to release Krathong (floating lamps, similar to diyas) to pay respect to the river goddess. According to Thai beliefs, floating candles or vessels take away misfortunes. And if the candle on your Krathong stays put until you can no longer see it, it signifies abundance and prosperity in the coming year.

Around the water bodies where people release krathongs, you can see stalls selling food and krathongs, people enjoying performances, and having a gala time.

Loy Krathong festival dates: The dates are announced as per Thai lunar calendar. However, the date falls in month of November

12. Yi Peng Festival – The Lantern Festival

Yi Peng Festival  - The Lantern Festival

The Yi Peng Festival marks one of the most beautiful nights in Thailand to witness. This festival is celebrated in the mountainous Chiang Mai province, located in northern Thailand. The celebration of Yi Peng marks the end of the rainy season. People come out and gather in huge numbers to release “Khom loy” (floating lanterns) in the air.

The letting go of Chinese paper lanterns signifies letting go of negativity and misfortunes about oneself. It is also a way to pay reverence to Buddha. The thousands of floating lanterns in the night sky look breathtaking and make for an Instagram-worthy shot. The best places to witness these visuals are on Phae Road and Mae Jo University. Apart from the lantern lighting, the festivities are also accompanied by colourful parades, firecrackers, and performances by Thai singers and dancers.

Yi Peng festival dates: The festival takes place in November

13. Lopburi Monkey Festival

Lopburi Monkey Festival

In the town of Lopburi, which is located around 150 km away from Bangkok, many monkeys roam and run around temples freely. Annually, the Lopburi Monkey Festival is celebrated to honour the Hindu deity Hanuman. Here a big banquet is put up to feed these mischievous creatures fruits, veggies, and other eatables. It is fascinating to see monkeys running, jumping, and eating offerings. However, be careful, as some of them might be extra playful and climb on you or take away your belongings, especially if you are carrying something edible.

Lopburi Monkey Festival date: Lopburi Monkey Festival occurs on the last weekend of November.

14. King Rama’s IX Birth Anniversary – Father’s Day

Just like how Mother’s Day in Thailand commemorates the birthday of Mother Queen, King Rama’s IX birth anniversary is celebrated as Father’s Day. The King’s birthday is celebrated on December 5, which is a national holiday in Thailand. The people of Thailand celebrate their monarch’s birthday by wearing yellow on this day to honour royalty and black to pay reverence to the late King.

Current Father’s Day in Thailand: 28th July (based on the birthday of present King Rama X)

King Rama’s IX Birth Anniversary: 05th December

15. New Year’s Eve

Songkran - Thai New Year

Just like the rest of the world, Thailand celebrates New Year Eve on December 31 as per the Gregorian calendar. It is a time of revelry in Thailand, with great pomp and show in all major Thai cities. Bangkok is where the most fun parties take place. Places like Phuket, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan have full moon festivals on the beach with live music, barbeques, and fireworks.

New Year’s Eve date: 31st of December and continues until January 1st.

There you have it: the best 15 festivals in Thailand to learn about and experience Thai culture. Irrespective of the time you choose to visit Thailand, there is some festival or another waiting around the corner. Witness these festivals in Thailand and get a deeper, more immersive, and up-close encounter with Thailand’s culture and merriment.