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National Holidays In May


I remember when I first heard from my Thai friends how many holidays they were given annually that I was quite aghast to learn most of them received only six days a year or if they were lucky perhaps seven or eight. It was not until my first year of living in the kingdom that I began to understand the reasoning behind this. Namely that it was because the number of national holidays that exist in Thailand, far more when compared to say America, UK or most of Europe.

This is cemented when you look at May in particular when there are three public holidays in the month. May 1st is Labour Day, Friday the 5th is Coronation Day and Wednesday the 10th is Visakha Bucha Day.The three days have completely different reasons for their celebrations; political, religious and state, but this is typical of Thailand. Its people have empathy with many different religions, political causes and in the main are staunchly loyal to their monarchy.

National Labour Day - Wan Raeng Ngaan Haeng Chaat

National Labour Day has been a public holiday in Thailand since 1935, it is a day to recognise the significance and achievements of Thai workers. It is celebrated as more of a fun day than a political one, and generally most people take the extra day off to relax and spend time with their families. In some towns and cities there are also parades and official celebrations, again this is not to make specific political statements but to show public recognition of their fellow workers.

Coronation Day - Wan Chattra Mongkhon

Four years after becoming King, Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned Rama IX of Thailand in the Grand Palace on 5th May 1950, making him the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty. The actual ceremony took place over three days, it began with Buddhist monks holding a service in honour of the Chakri dynasty at the Grand Palace. The following day the head of the Brahmin read out a proclamation of the coronation that actually took place on the 5th.

Visakha Bucha Day

This is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar, as the moon of the month of Vaisakh has special significance because on this day the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and also attained nirvana when he died. Although Buddha was believed to have been born on April the 8th, the exact date has been a point of contention. The day is observed as a holy day, shops, bars and restaurants are banned from selling alcohol and all government offices are closed.

Whilst all Thai public holidays are observed by government agencies, bank holidays are regulated by the Bank of Thailand. Obviously these holidays often cross over, but are not always are the same.Thailand usually has sixteen public holidays a year, but this can and often does vary slightly. Other observances, official and unofficial, religious and local events are also honoured to varying degrees around the kingdom.

If we take sixteen days as the norm, then Thailand has been cited by Mercer (data finance firm) as the world’s third top country in terms of national days off. Joint top of the current list are India and Colombia, which have a very generous 18 days public holidays and rock bottom is Mexico, with a measly 7 days. The UK, Netherlands and Hungary only fare slightly better with 8 days whilst Serbia, Switzerland, Ireland and Germany are joint third bottom on nine.

Trying to analyse the general reasoning as to why certain countries appreciate their citizens more is quite difficult. In the main the data would support that the Europeans and Americans are the biggest “Bah Humbug’s,” and begrudgingly let their citizens have “one or two hours off a century”! Whilst the Asian countries in the main are far more generous and obviously religion is a main contributing factor as Buddhism likes to celebrate big events in its history and such events are revered strongly by its followers therefore deserving acknowledgement.

The Thai nation are by far the best party goers in the world, any reason for a get together and a knees-up is grasped with two eager hands. So it is hardly surprising that the Thai New Year is celebrated with a three day national holiday. A little different than returning back to work on January the 2nd as in most western countries, with just one resented day’s leave having been begrudgingly granted.

The family and returning home is a big reason for this. During Songkran the whole kingdom is a place of transience. Internal flights are full, and roads all over the country are gridlocked with people criss crossing the Thai countryside all trying to return back to their families and friends.

Why do the UK, America and most of Europe have the worst holidays in the world? This is a simple question to answer and it is all based on the theory of the economy and money. It is cited that less commerce is generated when the banks and stock exchanges are closed. In my limited economic schooling, I always thought that the same money is spent, saved and circulated in a fiscal year no matter how many days the financial institutions decide to close.

However, in any case, we are most fortunate to be living in a country that respects its citizens, and understands that corporate profits are not the be all and end all.

Whilst investigating the Thai national holidays it came to mind to have a look at what other nations have in terms of national holidays in May. The UK celebrate May Day which dates back to Roman celebrations of the upcoming summer.

On May 17th in Norway it is “Syttende Mai” or Constitution Day and the celebrations on this day even eclipse New Year’s Eve.

In South Korea on the 5th May, it is Children’s Day and the county’s youth are celebrated, whilst in Mexico on the same day they are celebrate “Cinco de Mayo” which is a historical military win over France.

All over the world, nations come together to celebrate a unique day in their country’s history, these National Holidays reinforce the identity and values of the community, and bring family and nations together. Enjoy your time off in May, and embrace the reasons why the days have been designated as national holidays.