(End of the Rains Retreat (October-November) – Nationwide with spectacular events in the northeast and south)
After three months restricted to their temples, learning dharma and practicing meditation, the Buddhist monks once again return to their social duties. At the end of Buddhist Lent, it’s also time for another big celebration, referred to as ‘Ok Phansa.’ Thai Buddhists celebrate this occasion by offering food and lavish gifts to monks.
Phi Ta Khon Festival
(June – Dan Sai district, Loei province)
In Thailand, the spirit-world comes alive in June, with the Phi Ta Khon festival, an event filled with fun, mischief and of course, a touch of the unknown. Phi Ta Khon is part of a Buddhist merit-making holiday known locally as ‘Bun Pha Ves.’ The precise origin of Phi Ta Khon is unclear. It is believed that the roots of the festival revolve around an important tale of the Buddha’s last life, before he reached nirvana. According to Buddhist folklore, the Buddha-to-be was born as Prince Vessandorn, a generous man who gave freely to the people. One day, he gave away a white elephant, a royal creature, revered as a symbol of rain. The townspeople were so angry for fear of drought and famine, that they banished the prince into exile. The prince left the village for a very long journey. Finally, the king and the people got over their anger and recalled him to the city. When he eventually returned, his people were overjoyed. They welcomed him back with a celebration so loud that even the dead were awakened from their slumbers to join in the festivities. Phi Ta Khon is held with the arrival of the sixth or seventh lunar month. Young male villagers prepare their ghostly attire and masks, while children roam around town playing tricks. Sheets or blankets are sewn together to look like shrouds while traditional wooden bamboo containers used to store sticky rice (huad), are creatively fashioned into bizarre hats. The huge masks are carved from the bases of coconut trees. The spirit masks are the integral part of the celebrations, which last for three consecutive days.
Poi Sang Long Festival
(April – Mae Hong Son)
Between late March to early April, the Tai Yai ethnic group in Mae Hong Son province hold a special religious ceremony called ‘Poi Sang Long’. Poi Sang Long is a Buddhist novice ordination ceremony, but unlike any other ceremony of its type in the country. Young boys aged between 7 and 14 are ordained as novices to learn the Buddhist doctrines. It’s believed that they will gain merit ordaining for their parents. The origins of this festival lie in Buddhist legend. It is believed that the tradition is probably following in the footsteps of Prince Rahula, the Buddha’s own son, who gave up his worldly life to follow his father’s spiritual teachings. Prince Rahula became the youngest ordained monk and the first novice in Buddhism. Subsequently it became a tradition that young boys should ordain to learn Buddhist teachings. With such high reverence to the Buddhist religion, the people here consider that the celebrations should be as grand as possible. The festival lasts for three days.