This Saturday (11th of February) is Makha Bucha Day, it is an important Buddhist festival celebrated in the whole of Thailand. But what is it exactly? What is the story behind it and why is it so sacred for the inhabitants of Thailand? First, a bit of a culture lesson, and then some tips what to do on such a day.
First of all, Makha Bucha Day is not only a national holiday in Thailand, it is celebrated in many more countries in which Buddhism is a great religion. Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Myanmar celebrate the day as well, although they do have different names for it. The celebration day is on the Full moon day of the 11th lunar month, which means the date changes every year in comparison with the global way of dating. Last year Makha Bucha was on the 22th while it is on the 11th now.
The core ideas of this festival, the spiritual aims as you could call it are: not to commit any kind of sins, do only good and purify one’s mind. This is combined with ceremonies and activities happening in all the temples in Thailand, done by the Buddhists and the monks. This is also a great thing to see if you are close to a big temple such as Wat Benjamabopit or the Golden Mount (Wat Saket).
The history of Makha Bucha
The origin of Makha Bucha originated ten months after the enlightenment of Buddha. Four special events occurred which is still celebrated to this day. The first is that 1250 disciples came to see Buddha at one evening all without being summoned. Besides that all were Arahants, Better known as Enlightened ones and they were ordained by the Buddha himself. These events all happened during a full-moon day as well, originating in yearly festivities on that day.
The biggest ceremony is Wian Thian, what would literally mean “Circle around candle”. What happens is that, in the evening each temple holds a ceremony in which the monks circle around the ‘Phra Ubsot’ or ordination hall as it would be called. This will be done three times while holding a lighted candle, incense and flowers.
Besides that, there are more activities around the city and many of the Thai population will be going to the temples to make offerings and join in on other Buddhist activities. This is an important event for Thailand as religion is always an important aspect of a country and Buddhism is the main religion in the country. Religion often reflects on the culture as well, on its beliefs and values. This is the case in Thailand as well, which is especially visible on this day. On Makha Bucha Day, the sale of alcohol is prohibited and as told before, the people go out to pay respect to the monks and Buddha. They believe that he is watching, especially on this day, and will bless them for doing good deeds.
Experiencing the day as a tourist
This day is one of the many national holidays which are celebrated in Thailand. So if you happen to be visiting the country on Makha Bucha Day, or any other day for that matter. Make sure to join in on the festivities! One recommendation is to go to Wat Saket, better known as the Golden Mount, it is a big temple in the centre of Bangkok which will be dedicated to Makha Bucha day. Just remember it is a holy day for the Thai population and handle accordingly, make sure to pay respect to the culture and society around you. This is always important of course and even more so on a day like that. And to all your party lovers, beware the clubs and bars might be closed as there is no alcohol sold on the day itself. However, that should not ruin your day as there is still plenty to see and do in Bangkok!
Makha Bucha is celebrated all through Thailand, so wherever you are you can visit a nearby temple. However if you happen to be in Bangkok in the next few days make sure to visit one of the bigger temples and stay in one of our hotels!