Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Every year on January 17th, the people of San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain, celebrate St. Anthony's by riding their horese, donkeys and mules through piles of burning tree branches.
The unique tradition of leaping over and through flames dates back 500 years, but the men and women of San Bartolome de Pinares still celebrate it religiously. They gather all the branches they can find in the days leading up to the festivities, and when dusk falls on the eve of Saint Anthony's, they light the branches into a bonfire. Riders jump and run their mounts through the burning piles of the branches in the middle of the village, accompanied by sound of drums and Spanish bagpipes.
Jumping through the flames is said to bring the animals the protection of St. Anthony Abad, acknowledged as the patron saint of domestic animals, ever since the Middle Ages. Locals believe the fire purifies their animals and protects them against illnesses, all year long. So far as I know none of the horses we hurt during this festival.
April- Chakri Memorial Day, Chakri Memorial Day celebrates the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty (the royal dynasty of the present King of Thailand). It's normally just a public holiday where some Thai's will go to the temple but most will hang out with family and friends to go shopping or to eat. You'll also see a lot of enormous photos of the present King and Queen being put up all over Bangkok.
Royal Ploughing Day-This is an interesting holiday as it blesses Thailand's farmers. There is a fascinating ceremony at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace, in Bangkok, which involves several oxen, some government officials and different grains. Depending on which grains the oxen eat first, this tells whether it will be a good harvest season or not in the coming year. The ceremony is also shown on Thai T.V., so if you don't want to go down to the actual field (it gets quite crowded), you can still see it. If you do go to the field, it's a wonderful place to take photos.
Vesak-May is chocked full of holidays as Vesak is also a public holiday. Vesak celebrates Buddha's birthday, life and death, and on this day most Thia's will go to temple to give make merit (donate to the temple and to the monks). Making merit means you will get a place in heaven, so public holidays like Vesak are important in Thailand. Some temples will also have temple fairs with lots of traditional Thai food, games, dancing and even Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) matches.
July- Asanha Bucha Day, Another important day on the Buddhist calendar, this public holiday commemorates the Buddha's first teaching after he attained enlightenment. Again, another day where Thai's go to give merit at the temple, and another day where you might find the local temple putting on a fair.
Khao Phansa Day- This day marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent. Buddhist Lent, unlike Western Lent, is not a time where Buddhist deprive themselves of anything though, it's simply a time where Thai Buddhists monks retreat to their temples for 3 months and meditate and pray. Ordinary Thai's will spend some time at temple, but many will also spend the day shopping or with friends.
August-Queen's Birthday, August is when the Queen of Thailand's birthday is celebrated. It is also Mother's Day in Thailand (Mother's and Father's Day are the days of the King and Queen's birthdays, as they are seen as the "Mother and Father of Thailand"). On this day, every Thai who can, will spend the day with their families and usually take their mothers out for lunch or dinner. Not a day to go to a nice restaurant if you don't have your mom with you, as every restaurant in town is packed full of Thai families. But, if your mom happens to be on holiday with you, then she'll be made to feel like a queen at any restaurant in Thailand. Flowers are also incredibly cheap in Thailand. You can actually purchase a bouquet of red roses for your mom for less than $3.00.
October-Chulalongkorn Day, This day commemorates the death of King Chulalongkorn or Rama V, one of Thailand's most beloved kings. King Chulalongkorn was involved in many projects that helped Thailand and the Thai people, and is spoken of having helped to bring Thailand into the modern day world. He also abolished slavery in Thailand, so he is one of Thailand's national heroes. On Chulalongkorn Day, again, it's a great time for families and friends to shop and eat, although many Thai's will also buy large floral wreaths and lay them at the base of Rama V's statue at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok.
December- December is one of the best months for public holidays, as there are three important days in this
King's Birthday- One of the most important holidays of the year is the birthday of the King of Thailand. It falls on December 5th every year and is also the day that all Thai's celebrate Father's Day. The King of Thailand is revered almost like a living god, so Thai's from all over the country go to temple to pray for the King. There is also an enormous celebration for the king at Sanam Luang (near the Grand Palace). A few hundred thousand Thai's attend the celebrations. Here, you'll find food stalls, musicians from all over Thailand playing on a gigantic stage. Then, when it goes dark, everyone in attendance will light a candle...an unbelievably beautiful sight, against the backdrop of Wat Phra Kaow and the Grand Palace, the most beautiful buildings in Thailand. In other provinces in Thailand, you will also find parades and fireworks as every Thai loves to celebrate the King. For fathers, it is also Father's Day and many Thai's will take their dads out for a meal, to play a round of golf, or go to a movie.
Constitution Day- Constitution Day falls on the 10th of December and celebrates Thailand's first real constitution. It's basically just a chance for a holiday from work after an exhausting year. Thai's will either sleep, shop, eat or go and see a movie.
New Year's Eve- Even though it's a Western holiday, Thai's still really get into New Year's Eve. There are several large concerts and shows all over Bangkok, all the night clubs throw big parties, and many of the restaurants will have special New Year's Eve dinners. The shopping malls are crowded and everyone is in a wonderful mood. Most Thai people are on holiday from December 31st to January 4th or 5th, so they're in a relaxed mood in preparation for their break. Central World Plaza in Bangkok is the most popular place to see in the New Year.
All of these public holidays in Thailand have one thing in common, Thai's love to have fun. Even at temple, or celebrating the King's birthday. Thai's are a fun-loving people and make the best out of every moment. Public holidays are days to have a great time, so if you're lucky enough to be in Thailand for one of them, join in with the festivities and enjoy yourself.