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Father’s Day in Thailand – a Day for Great Celebration

Birthday Greetings

December 5th is Father’s Day in Thailand. This is the day the present King of Thailand was born and, as the Thais think of him as the ‘Father of the Nation’, it’s appropriate to celebrate all fathers on this day.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great was born on Monday, December 5th, 1927 in the USA. He is the only monarch ever to have been born in America. King Bhumibol is also the world’s longest reigning monarch. This year will be his 80th birthday and, as such, will be a day of enormous celebration for all Thais. Yellow is the King’s birth color because yellow is the color of a Monday birth according to traditional Thai beliefs. So every Monday throughout the year most Thais wear a special yellow shirt to honor the King.

Thais also celebrate their own fathers on this day. At schools throughout the country, there will be special festivities. When I was teaching in Thailand, the school usually had a morning show that all the children’s families came to. The little kids would perform songs or nursery rhymes, and the older kids would dance traditional Thai dances in honor of their fathers. At the end of the performance, all the fathers in the audience were asked to come up on stage and were presented with flowers. Male teachers would often be called up to represent a father for a child who didn’t have one present. As teachers are highly respected in Thailand, this was always a nice addition to the festivities and you’d often see an otherwise macho teacher wiping away a little tear.

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The King’s 80th birthday on December 5th, 2007, will be one of the largest celebrations in Thailand for years. His majesty has recently spent almost a month in hospital and the Thai people have been very concerned for his health. He was released from the hospital a few days ago, so now the Thais are very happy to be celebrating his birthday.

A few weeks before his birthday, people all over Thailand will hang the nation’s flag and pictures of the King will appear in every window and on every signpost. Public buildings will be covered in royal symbols and enormous photographs of the King framed in elaborate gold frames, will appear on public land all over the kingdom. The entrance to every shopping mall will have elaborate displays about the King and a guest book where people can write their birthday greetings.

On the morning of his birthday, the King goes to the temple to make merit to the monks. This event is televised on national TV so everyone can see the King honoring his religion and being blessed by the monks for a long and healthy life.

In the evening, there is a free concert held at Sanam Luang, a large park area in front of the temple Wat Phra Kaew. This year, around 50,000 people are expected to attend. Singers from all over Thailand will perform, and it’s an amazing honor to be asked. As it goes dark, there is a huge candlelight ceremony for the King with every Thai in the audience wearing yellow and holding a candle. An amazing sight to see! The evening will end with fireworks and the singing of the Thai national anthem.

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On the King’s birthday every year, I feel like I am Thai. I respect and love the King, just like any Thai person, and am so happy to see such an outpouring of love and adoration from his people. Father’s Day in Thailand is truly wonderful as it not only blesses a great man, but also every father in the country.