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One of the many public holidays on Thailand’s calendar, the birthday of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s. On 5 December has long been one of the most prominent. Until his death aged 88 on 13 October 2016, this holiday had long been celebrated as the King’s Birthday, as well as being marked as Father’s Day.
Even now December 5 remains as Father’s Day and also acts as a remembrance of King Bhumibol and his birthday.
This article and the activities mentioned are based on 2020. For 2021 this article will be updated closer to the time.
King Bhumibol, born on 5 December 1927 in the US state of Massachusetts, was widely revered by people across Thailand, and consequently his birthday has long since given rise to a large number of celebrations and festivities across the country annually. After his death in 2016, it serve as an annual opportunity to remember the late king.
As King Bhumibol was seen by many as the symbolic father of Thailand, 5 December has also long been celebrated as father’s day nationwide – in the same way as mother’s day falls on 12 August, the birthday of Queen Sirikit – and this has not been changed since his passing. On the occasion of father’s day, Thais pay respect to their father and grandfather, often offering them a canna flower, similar to a lily and known in Thai as dok phuttha raksa (ดอกพุทธรักษา).
The occasion of King Bhumibol’s birthday on 5 December has previously been marked by celebrations and candlelit ceremonies around Thailand, both in the form of large-scale organised events and smaller gatherings of groups of individuals in local communities.
In the past a great numbers of Thais would pour onto the streets to honour the King on his birthday, often camping out the night before in order to get a good spot and the chance to see the king up close when he made an appearance and gave a speech. Many Thais at these events wore yellow shirts, yellow being the colour considered by many Thais to represent Monday, the day of the king’s birth in 1927.
This is based on an astrological rule influenced by Hindu mythology, which holds that the colour is that of the god that protects that day. For this reason, many patriotic Thais have long been seen wearing yellow at the start of each week; the Queen’s birth took place on a Friday and so her traditional colour is light blue, and Thais will often wear light blue clothing on a Friday and around the time of celebrations for the Queen’s birthday. Though this practice of colour-coded clothing had been in decline in modern times, its rejuvenation was sparked by celebrations of the diamond jubilee of the king’s coronation in 2006.
Though the precise nature of this year’s celebrations for King Bhumibol’s birthday in Bangkok and elsewhere around Thailand remains to be seen, it is likely that there will be a continuation of the previous tradition of using elaborate light displays to decorate royally prestigious areas of Bangkok such as Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Phra Nakhon, and other roads around and close to the Grand Palace. There are usually traditional ceremonies at Sanam Luang royal ceremonial ground, which was also the location of King Bhumibol’s cremation, and this will also likely be the case again going forward, too.
Similarly, it is to be expected that there will continue to be fairly prominent celebrations of King Bhumibol’s birthday in Hua Hin, where he spent much of his time at Klai Kangwon Palace, and which regularly played host to the most high-profile royal birthday celebrations each year.
Having said all of this, the scale of the occasion of King Bhumibol’s birthday has for a long time meant that events and festivities have taken place all over Thailand, and this is almost certain to remain the case in the coming years.
The celebration takes place in several areas in Bangkok during December 1 – 6. The Grand Palace, Saranrom Palace Park, Museum Siam, Wat Pho, Wat Ratchapradit, Wat Ratchabophit, and Sanam Chai Road, are currently open from 10 am – 9 pm.
For most people it is a time to spend time with their father. Many hotels are hosting special lunches and dinners to take advantage of the fact that many people plan to go out to eat as a family.
There are plenty of interesting activities held during Dec 1 – 6 (10 am – 9 pm).
Sanam Chai Road: King Rama 9’s royal projects exhibition (everyday), Marching Band starting from Museum Siam (Dec 1 – 4, 6 from 6 pm), Special performance parade starting from Museum Siam (Dec 1-4, 6 from 5:30 pm)
Sanam Chai Road – Saranrom Park: Hall of Frame – King’s Rama 9’s photos exhibition
Ministry of Defence: Special performances and 3D videos exhibition (2 rounds in everyday, 6:30 pm – 7:15 pm and 8:15 pm – 9 pm)
You can now visit the Grand Palace in evenings (4:30 pm – 9 pm) until December 6 with free admission (for both Thais and Expats).
Have you celebrated King Bhumibol’s birthday in Bangkok or elsewhere in Thailand in the past? Will you be here for the occasion this year? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by That Hartford Guy; Eric Molina; Benoit Mortgat; edwin.11
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