Asahna Bucha Day is one of the most important events in the Buddhist calendar commemorating the occasion when Buddha delivered his first sermon. The exact date of Asahna Bucha varies from year to year depending on the lunar calendar, but usually falls in July or August. Asahna Bucha Day is a public holiday in Thailand and although most businesses remain open as usual, government offices are closed. As one of the most important religious holidays of the year there are also restrictions in place on alcohol sales.
On Asahna Bucha Day, most Thai Buddhists will visit their local wat (temple) to make merit. One way of doing this is by donating candles to the temple. This ancient tradition dates back long before the advent of electricity when monks living in the temple relied on candlelight to see them through the darker days of the rainy season. The tradition has continued in the modern era and in some regions of Thailand has morphed into elaborate candle festivals.
The most famous of the candle festivals is held in the north-east city of Ubon Ratchathani. People from different community groups around the province come together to craft giant candle displays and intricate wax figures. If you visit Ubon Ratchathani in the weeks leading up to Asahna Bucha you can go to a number of temples in the city centre and watch the artisans at work. The main parade for the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is held on Asahna Bucha Day with festivities continuing the following day. Ubon Ratchathani is a city that doesn’t see too many overseas tourists and those that do travel here are assured a warm Isaan welcome.
If you can’t make it to Ubon, look out for other Asahna Bucha events around Thailand. Some temples hold special ceremonies that may not be advertised. The reception staff at your hotel are often a good source of local information.
Wan Khao Phansa
The day after Asahna Bucha is known as Wan Khao Phansa and marks the start of the three-month ‘Phansa‘ period. This is the rains retreat period when monks would traditionally stay within the confines of their own temple. The Phansa retreat period is sometimes referred to as ‘Buddhist Lent’.
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