Thursday, January 5, 2017


    If you're planning a trip to Thailand next year, one thing you might want to take into consideration when you choose your holiday dates,  are Thailand's public holidays.  Thailand has at least 16 public holidays a year, where everyone gets a day off, which is more than almost any other country in the world.  Thailand's public holidays are amazing, with fairs, festivals, concerts and more.  Most months have at least one public holiday, some have more.  Check out all of Thailand's public holidays and you can choose the best time to come to suite your particular interests.


   New Year's Day, Thai's do actually celebrate the Western New Year, even though the Thai New Year isn't until April.  Most people go home to visit family, which means if you're outside Bangkok, the roads can be pretty packed.  In Bangkok, it's like heaven,  as all the traffic jams disappear and the normally polluted air is clean from the lack of cars.  Thai's who stay in Bangkok tend to go shopping,  as all the shopping malls and stores are open in the Winter months too, beer gardens sprout up at shopping malls all over Bangkok, so you can spend New Year's Day having a nice meal and then head out to an open-air beer garden for great beer and live music.




   Makha Bucha Day, An important day in the Buddhist calendar, Makha Bucha Day celebrates certain Buddhist teachings.  On Makha Bucha Day, many of the schools in Thailand will march to their local temple carrying offerings for the monks.  They will walk around the temple three times and then go inside to hear the monks speak about the Lord Buddha and his lessons.  If you're staying anywhere near a Thai school, it's interesting to watch all the kids marching to the temple, some in traditional Thai costumes.  In some areas, you'll get 7 or 8 schools going to the same temple so, watching the kids walking there is like watching a mini parade.


   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.


   Songkran is the big holiday in Thailand as it's Thai New Year.  It's a three day holiday (Monday thru Wednesday) although many people will take the week off.  People travel with their families and then the water festival starts.  All over Thailand, for three days, if you venture outside, you'll get wet, as kids and adults both splash, squirt or throw water at you.  You may get a bit of a squirt of a water gun, or a hose, or an entire bucket of water poured over your head and nobody is safe.  If you don't like getting wet, stay inside until after 6 p.m., when it will stop until the day after.  But, Thailand is so hot at this time of year that getting wet is really fun and and enjoyable from the hot, humid surroundings.  Chiang Mai is the best place to celebrate Songkran, but anywhere is a blast!



   Coronation Day, Coronation Day celebrates the coronation of His Royal Highness King Bhumipol Adulyadej, the present King of Thailand.  Again, most Thai's spend the day shopping or eating out with family.  The slopping malls are packed on this day so, if you have urgent shopping, save it for another time if you can.  Again, it's also a time for even more enormous photos of the King to be displayed.  Some of these photos can be the size of a 12 story building.  You'll even see the King's picture decorating the outside of massive sky scrapers, so his face can be seen for miles!



   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.


   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.


   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.


   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.


   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 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.


Image result for hogmanay 2016

The Origins of Hogmanay
A guid New Year to ane an` a` and mony may ye see!
   While New Year's Eve is celebrated around the world, the Scots have a long rich heritage associated with this event - and have their own name for it, Hogmanay.
   There are many theories about the derivation of the word "Hogmanay". The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was "Hoggo-nott" while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) "hoog min dag" means "great love day". Hogmanay could also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning. But the most likely source seems to be the French. "Homme est nĂ©" or "Man is born" while in France the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged was "aguillaneuf" while in Normandy presents given at that time were "hoguignetes". Take your pick!
   In Scotland a similar practice to that in Normandy was recorded, rather disapprovingly, by the Church.
"It is ordinary among some Plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane."
Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, 1693.

Torchlight Procession
Hogmanay Traditional Celebrations
    Historians believe that we inherited the celebration from the Vikings who, coming from even further north than ourselves, paid even more attention to the passing of the shortest day. In Shetland, where the Viking influence was strongest, New Year is called Yules, from the Scandinavian word.    It may not be widely known but Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. The reason for this has its roots in the Protestant Reformation when the Kirk portrayed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast and therefore had to be banned. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children, which came to be called hogmanay.
   There are traditions before midnight such as cleaning the house on 31st December (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common). There is also the superstition to clear all your debts before "the bells" at midnight.

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   Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns' "For Auld Lang Syne". Burns claimed it was based on an earlier fragment and certainly the tune was in print over 80 years before he published his version in 1788.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne."

   An integral part of the Hogmanay partying, which continues very much today, is to welcome friends and strangers, with warm hospitality and of course a kiss to wish everyone a Guid New Year. The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.
   "First footing" (that is, the "first foot" in the house after midnight) is still common in Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should be male, dark (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble) and should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky. These days, however, whisky and perhaps shortbread are the only items still prevalent (and available).
   "Handselling" was the custom of gift giving on the first Monday of the New Year but this has died out.

Torchlight Procession
Torch of The Bonfire Ceremonies
   The magical Firework display and torchlight procession in Edinburgh - and throughout many cities in Scotland - is reminiscent of the ancient custom at Scottish Hogmanay pagan parties hundreds of years ago.
   The traditional New Year ceremony of yesteryear would involve people dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village being hit by sticks. The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires, rolling blazing tar barrels down the hill and tossing torches. Animal hide was also wrapped around sticks and ignited which produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective to ward off evil spirits. The smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.
   Some of these customs do continue, especially in the small, older communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where tradition, along with language and dialect are kept alive and well. On the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, the young boys form themselves into opposing bands, the leader of each wears a sheep skin, while a member carries a sack. The bands move through the village from house to house reciting a Gaelic rhyme. On being invited inside, the leader walks clockwise around the fire, while everyone hits the skin with sticks. The boys would be given some bannocks - fruit buns - for their sack before moving on to the next house.

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   One of the most spectacular Fire ceremonies takes place in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen on the North East coast. Giant fireballs, weighing up to 20 pounds are lit and swung around on five feet long metal poles, requiring 60 men to carry them as they march up and down the High Street. The origin of the pre-Christian custom is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice of late December with the fireballs signifying the power of the sun, to purify the world by consuming evil spirits.
   And it is worth remembering that January 2nd is a holiday in Scotland as well as the first day of the year - to give us all time to recover from a week of merry-making and celebration, all part of Scotland's fascinating cultural legacy of ancient customs and traditions surrounding the pagan festival of Hogmanay.


   This recipe comes from www.elizabethsedibleexperience.blogspot.com . Enjoy!

Cake Cravings

   There is a hilarious scene in an episode of Sex and the City where Miranda makes herself a homemade chocolate cake. She starts off by eating one thin sliver of the cake and then walks away. The camera frame doesn't leave the kitchen the entire scene. You see her walk back into the kitchen just seconds later and help herself to another minuscule piece of the sinful treat. After she leaves the shot she is once again back within seconds and cuts herself a third helping. This time she is more realistic and portions out a sizable piece of the cake. After her third tasting she covers the cake in aluminum foil trying to make it less accessible. The tin foil wasn't strong enough to keep her out. After a short while she returns to the kitchen and has another piece. This time she covers it with foil and places it in the fridge assuming it to be the final resting place until a later date. Time elapses and she is back once more. She eats another piece; visibly frustrated with her lack of self control she throws the cake in the trash. Miranda thinks this will deter her from ever eating the cake again. In one last desperate scene, they show her back in the frame hovering over the trash can about to make a very dirty decision. She heads over to the sink, grabs the dish soap and pours it all over the cake making it unedible to her tempted tastebuds.
   It is a brillant scene and my paragraph above does it little justice. I think the will power struggle she goes through during the short 2 minute scene is captured perfectly and with so much humor. I never could relate to the scene on a personal level because I am not a chocolate lover. I have never had something so rich and decedant tempting me in my own kitchen - that was until this weekend. Although it wasn't the chocolate cake of the sitcom, this pound cake was addictive. I couldn't stop eating it. Everytime I passed the cake stand I lifted the lid and helped myself to a sliver. I felt like I was headed down the Miranda dish soap road very quickly. I made sure to cut up slices to bring to work on Monday in an attempt to get the cake out of my house so it didn't end up in the trashcan drowning in Palmolive.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Yield 1 (10-inch) cake
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened at room temp
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened at room temp
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy (do not over beat);

gradually add sugar, beating well.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until combined. Crack eggs into a bowl first before adding to the mixture to make sure you avoid shells in the cake mix.

Sift 3 cups of flour. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla from the huge 1 liter Mexican vanilla bottle my mother in law shared with me.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan.

Smooth the top of the cake or bottom of the cake (depending how you look at it) with a spatula to even it out.

Bake at 300° for 1 hour and 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack. My pound cake had a crazy crusty layer on the bottom that I just peeled off. It was like candy, it was so sweet and cruchy but it wasn't pretty so I just threw it away.