For a full, in-depth guide to celebrating Thai New Year, read our Survival Guide to Songkran.
Songkran festival dates
- 2019: Saturday 13th - Monday 15th April (observed Friday 12th - Wednesday 17th April)
- 2020: Monday 13th - Wednesday 15th April
- 2021: Tuesday 13th - Thursday 15th April
4. Boon Bang Fai - Rocket Festival (May)
Boon Bang Fai, also known as Rocket Festival, is celebrated by the farming communities of Isan, up in the northeast of Thailand, as well as throughout neighbouring Laos. Taking place at the start of the wet season, Boon Bang Fai is the big party before planting season begins.
During the festival, villages come together and celebrations take the form of music, dance, pageants, float processions featuring homemade rockets and plenty of rice wine. On the third day, the rockets are fired as part of a competition and are judged by height and distance of the launch, as well as the beauty of the vapour trail.
To learn about other places in Southeast Asia which celebrate similar festivals, read our list of unmissable Cultural Holidays and Festivals in Asia.
Boon Bang Fai Rocket Festival dates
- 2019: Wednesday 8th - Sunday 12th May
- 2020: Friday 1st - Tuesday 5th May
- 2021: to be confirmed
5. Phi Ta Khon - Ghost Festival (July)
One of the most unusual (and creepy) Thailand festivals is Phi Ta Khon, or Ghost Festival. Phi Ta Khon is actually the name given to a group of ghost-themed festivals that take place in Isan, northern Thailand, as part of the Bun Luang or Bun Phawet Buddhist merit-making holiday.
Phi Ta Khon combines Buddhist tradition with pre-Buddhist animism, with participants dressing up in ghostly attire, donning gruesome masks, waving wooden phalluses and competing in a series of games and contests.
The Buddhist strand of this festival comes from the story of Vessantara Jataka, which follows one of Buddha's past lives. In this life, he was a prince who made a long journey and was presumed dead, so once he returned home the celebrations were so huge they were said to wake the dead.
The festival takes place over a weekend, with parades on the Friday, music shows and pageants on the Saturday, and Buddhist ceremonies on the Sunday. Adding to the atmosphere of mystery, the dates of Phi Ta Khon are selected annually by the town’s mediums.
Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival dates
- 2019: Friday 5th - Sunday 7th July
- 2020: to be confirmed
- 2021: to be confirmed
6. Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival (July)
Another Thailand festival held in the northeastern provinces of Isan, Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival consists of an elaborate parade of carved candles to local temples, known as wats.
The parades take place over the days of Asanha Puja (a date that commemorates the Buddha's first sermon) and Wan Kao Pansa (the date that marks the start of vassa, a three-month retreat period observed by Theravada Buddhists during Thailand's wet season, also known as Buddhist Lent).
During this time, offerings such as candles are donated to monks for the vassa period and the Ubon Ratchathani festival grew out of this tradition. In the Isan region, candles are placed on huge floats, carved to depict scenes from Hindu and Buddhist mythology (or sometimes carved out of wood and coated in wax).
After the parades, the candles are put on display before being taken to the temples. The festival culminates in music, dance and feasts, as typical of many of Thailand's Buddhist festivals.
Candle festival dates
- 2019: Tuesday 16th July
- 2020: Sunday 5th July
- 2021: Saturday 24th July
7. Mothers' Day - Queen Mother's Birthday (August)
Thailand's monarchy is greatly revered, as shown with Mother's Day, which is on the date of the queen (now queen mother)'s birthday and it is also a public holiday. This is a special occasion not only to celebrate the nation's mothers, but also the queen mother herself, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.
On this day, many Thais choose to celebrate by donating offerings to monks, treating their mothers to a special meal, as well as giving cards and gifts, such as jasmine - a flower that symbolises purity, gentleness and motherhood in Thai culture. Many schools hold special events for Mothers' Day and students' parents are invited to attend.
Mothers' Day festival dates
- 2019: Monday 12th August
- 2020: Wednesday 12th August
- 2021: Thursday 12th August
8. Jay Festival - Vegetarian Festival (September and October)
Thailand's Nine Emperor Gods Festival, also known as Jay Festival or Vegetarian Festival, is a Taoist celebration that takes place over a period of nine days during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. The festival is celebrated in Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand, by Chinese communities, although locals tend to join in too.
During the nine-day period, participants must follow a set of 10 rules, including a vegan diet without pungent ingredients (such as onions or garlic) and abstinence from vices such as drugs, alcohol and sex.
However, Phuket takes this one step further and has now become infamous for mutilation rituals, including impaling, cutting, skinning and bloodletting. This gruesome side to Jay Festival comes from a legend that a Chinese opera group once got sick in Phuket, but after fasting and praying for nine days, they were cured, boasting invincibility.
Look out for yellow flags at restaurants and street vendors, which denote that they are participating in the festival by selling only vegan food. Bangkok's Chinatown is particularly busy at this time of year, as street vendors sell "mock-meat" which appears to look and taste like the real thing.
For more information on the festivities, read our full guide to Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, Thailand.
Jay Vegetarian Festival dates
- 2019: Saturday 28th September - Monday 7th October
- 2020: Wednesday 16th - Friday 25th October
- 2021: to be confirmed