This weekend is filled with two Buddhist festivals in Thailand, Buddhist Lent Day on Saturday, 24th July, and Asalha Puja Day on Sunday, 25th July.
Marked in the eighth Buddhist calendar month, Buddhist Lent Day is observed as the beginning of the annual retreat for monks as ruled by Lord Buddha. On this day, all monks would stay in a particular place or temple, where they can shelter from the sun, storms, and rain, for three months for study and meditation.
According to Buddhist history, monks during the Buddha era had a mission to travel and spread Buddhist teachings to as many places as possible. However, this constant activity became a problem during the rainy season as the traveling monks were crossing through fields, destroying the crops of villagers and stepping on insects and bugs, killing them, which is against Buddhist beliefs.
The Buddha, after hearing this, then issued the ‘rule’ that monks were not to leave their temples for the three-month period of the rainy season. They could leave the shelter but were not allowed to spend more than seven nights away.
As for Asalha Puja Day, one of the most significant Buddhist public holidays in Thailand, it commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon and the founding of the Buddha’s Sangha, or the four noble truths.
Like many other Buddhist festivals, most Thai Buddhists will traditionally offer alms to monks in the early morning and will visit temples to listen to sermons in the evening. They also perform a ritual practice known as the candle ceremony where they walk clockwise three times around the temple’s stupa carrying candles, flowers, and sometimes incense.
They would also practice the five major Buddhist precepts on both days, including not harming living things, not taking what is not given, refraining from sexual misconduct, avoiding telling lies or participating in gossip, and abstaining from alcoholic drinks and recreational drugs.
As the majority of Thai people are Buddhist, the government, therefore, legalized the prohibition of selling alcoholic beverages and the closure of bars in Thailand on all Buddhist days, regardless if one marks the holiday or not.
Therefore, this weekend will be a ban on the sale of alcohol.
Additionally, due to Covid-19, almost all activities and traditional ceremonies will be online this year to help prevent the spread of the virus.