Asalha Bucha, which usually falls in July, marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent in Southeast Asia, a three-month celebration during which monks remain inside their temples as much as possible, while avoiding unnecessary travel.
Buddhist Lent coincides with the rainy season in Southeast Asia, when farmers plant their crop. It is celebrated in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – all of which have predominately Buddhist populations.
The exact dates marking the beginning and end of Buddhist Lent vary each year because its observance is calculated according to the Lunar Calendar rather than the Gregorian Calender, which is in use throughout the world. It will be celebrated in 2017 on Tuesday 11 July.
During Buddhist Lent, monks spend most of their time studying, meditating, and praying. Other Buddhist devotees lead a more ascetic than usual life, as well, giving up, for example, meat, liquor, and cigarettes during this period.
Buddhist believers also give alms, meditate, and visit temples, often bearing gifts of clothing, food, and other daily essentials
So why do monks remain in temple during the Buddhist Lent? The practice began many centuries ago in order to avoid stepping on newly planted plants during the planting season.
Modern monks have taken a more relaxed attitude toward the practice and can now be seen in the streets and alleys of Thai cities and twows during the Buddhist Lent. But long-distance travel is still avoided if possible.
Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
Candle festivals are held across Northeastern Thailand at the beginning of Buddhist Lent. The biggest and most elaborate candle festival is held at a park in Ubon Ratchathani. It will take place on 8 and 9 July in 2017.
Festivities include feasts, games, candle carving competitions, a procession of giant candles through city streets, and smaller processions at several temples.
Other Thai Festivals
With a predominately Buddhist population, Thailand celebrates several other holidays and festivals each year.
Among the most important Buddhist holidays celebrated in Thailand are Makha Bucha day, which is celebrated in February; King Rama I Memorial and Chakri Day, which is celebrated in April, Songkran, a.k.a. the Water Festival (or Thai New Year) which is also celebraed in April; Visakha Bucha Day (Buddha Day) in May; and Loy Krathong, a.k.a. the Festival of Lights, which is celebrated in November.
Other Thai national holidays include New Year’s Day (1 January), Coronation Day (5 May), the Queen’s Birthday (in August), Rama V Day in October, nthe King’s Birthday (in December), Constitution Day (in Decebmer), and New Year’s Eve (in December).