|Thais celebrate the New Year twice: with the rest
of the world on January 1, and on April 13, when they celebrate Songkhran,
the Thai New Year. Families clean their houses to welcome the New Year.
Some people release caged birds or put live fish into the rivers. Young
people show respect for their elders by pouring water over their hands,
offering them gifts and asking for their blessing. The hill tribes have
an eight-day New Year's celebration. Young men play gourd flutes and tease
young women by poking sticks through the bamboo slats of village huts.
In May, the king oversees the ancient Ploughing Ceremony in Bangkok to mark the beginning of the rice-planting season. The sacred red and gold plough is pulled by two oxen decorated with gold cloth and tassels. They plough three furrows in the soil, accompanied by a procession of drummers. After the ploughing, rice seed is scattered on the field, and the bulls are offered bowls of rice, beans, corn, hay, sesame seed, water and rice wine. It is believed that the food the bulls choose will be plentiful during the next year. When the ceremony is finished, people rush onto the field to collect the rice. Even if a farmer finds only one grain, he will take it home and mix it with his own rice to ensure a good crop in the coming year.
Thais celebrate many Buddhist festivals. In February, Maghapucha commemorates an occasion on which more than a thousand disciples came to hear the Buddha speak. The full moon in May marks Visakhapucha, which honours the birth, death and enlightenment of the Buddha. Both festivals are celebrated with candlelit processions at Buddhist temples. Asalhapucha in July marks the beginning of the period that young men spend in a monastery.
Loy Krathong is held in November, on the night of the full moon. People place a krathong (a small cup made of banana leaves containing a lit candle and incense sticks) in a river or stream. They ask the goddess Mae khongkha (Mother Water) to wash away their sins and grant them a wish. If the candle keeps burning until the krathong is out of sight, their wish will come true.
|King Bhumibol's birthday on December
5 is a national holiday. The Grand Palace and other buildings are decorated
with coloured lights. Thousands of people come together to enjoy stage
shows, parades, fireworks and movies on giant screens.