In a city with so many temples it’s no wonder that the Buddhist holidays take on a special significance. And for those that want to really see and feel Thailand and the Thai people in their own element, a trip to the temple on a Buddhist holiday is a must. The locals are happy to have you so long as you dress and behave appropriately. This means, no drinking, no shorts or singles, shirts should have sleeves, short sleeves are fine and trousers or skirts should be worn.
Makha Bucha Day
Makha Bucha Day also follows a lunar calendar and usually falls in February. This is one of the most important of Buddhist holidays and honors the creation of the Sangha, or the monkhood, and the day the most important of Buddha’s teachings were given. This holiday sees Thai faithful at every temple, although Wat Phra Singh has the biggest turnout, walking three times around the Uposatha or Main Hall of the temple, holding flowers, incense and a lighted candle.
Visakha Bucha Day
The Buddhist holiday, Visakha Bucha Day, which falls on the full moon of the 6th lunar month (around May) is one of Thailand’s holiest days as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha and the Buddhist faithful flock to all the temples around Chiang Mai. An early morning walk up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep on Doi Suthep sees hundreds of faithful join.
Asarnha Bucha Day and Awk Phansa
Asarnha Bucha Day falls around July, on the full moon of the8th lunar month celebrates the first sermon given by the Buddha, the following day is the beginning of Buddhist Lent or Khao Phansa, where novices enter the temples as monks and remain there during the rains retreat for 3 months. In Chiang Mai, this is a very popular time for men to enter the temple and you will find ceremonies at most temples around the city.
Awk Phansa is the day that Buddhist Lent ends and falls on the first day of the waning moon of the 11th month or around October. All the monks can now leave the temples. On the same day is the Tak Bat Devorohana where monks leave the temples for the first time to obtain alms. It celebrates the return of Buddha to earth from heaven, where he had been teaching his mother and is most popular at Wat Fai Hin near Chiang Mai University.
Smaller Buddhist holy days
Many faithful make merit at the temples on the full moon and most major Buddhist holidays fall on the full moon. So often you will find merit making at local temples, beginning about August is the Salakaphat where lay people offer alms to monks, usually robes and goods. This occurs at all temples but you will see it especially at Wat Chiang Man, Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Suan Dok
Poy Sang Long
April sees the amazing Poy Sang Long Festival, unique to the Shan hilltribe people. Young Shan boys and men dress up in gorgeous glittering finery and are carried on the shoulders of their male relatives in a parade down the city streets. If you are here in early April, surely a glittering sight that shouldn’t be missed.
Tak Bhat Devorohana
On the same day as Awk Phansa is the Tak Bat Devorohana where monks leave the temples for the first time to obtain alms. It celebrates the return of Buddha to earth from heaven, where he had been teaching his mother and is most popular at Wat Fai Hin near Chiang Mai University as monks stream down the hill carrying their bowls.