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Thailand Full Moon Celebrations: Myths & Legends

Sakon Nakhon not only has the best sunsets in Thailand. It also has some of the most beautiful moonrises, with a full moon rising slowly over undulating mountains and rice fields, taking on new colors as it pushes its way through wisps of clouds. The moon, and the full moon in particular, has special meaning in Thailand. The full moon signifies the day of the Buddha’s birth, his enlightenment 35 years later, and his entry into Nirvana 45 years after that — all of which are commemorated on the most important full moon celebration in Thailand: Visakha Bucha Day (วันวิสาขบูชา), which occurs in May or June.

The full moon also marks the celebration of the Loy Krathong festival, which falls on the full moon of the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar (October or November). The brightness of the full moon adds to the magical ambiance of this event. The soft glow of the moon illuminates the surroundings, creating a serene and ethereal atmosphere as thousands of krathongs float on the water, taking away our sins of the past year and creating good fortune for the future.

 

Loy Krathong Full Moon Celebration
Thailand’s Loy Krathong festival is celebrated every year on a full moon in October or November.

The Thai Rabbit in the Moon

In Thai Buddhist folklore, there is a story of the Rabbit on the Moon. According to the legend, the Hindu god Indra transformed himself into a hungry old hermit, because he wanted to test the hearts of three animals: a bear, a fox, and rabbit. He pretended to fall unconscious from hunger in the forest, when the three animals came upon him. The bear went away and brought back fish, while the fox brought grapes. But the rabbit couldn’t get anything because it only ate grass. So the rabbit sacrificed itself by jumping into a fire to become food for the man. Indra then painted an image of the rabbit on the moon with its ashes to commemorate its great selflessness.

The Thai Moon Deity

The Moon is also considered a deity in Thai spiritual traditions, one that goes by many names, such as Phra Som, Phra Sasi, Phra Sasithorn, Phra Inthu, and Chantontepabut (พระโสม,พระศศิ,พระศศิธร, พระอินทุ, จันทรเทพบุตร). It’s said that the moon was created by the Hindu god Shiva, who crushed the remains of 15 angels and wrapped them in silk cloth, sprinkled with an elixir. The moon is said to help guide the fortunes of those who were born on a Monday.

 

Beautiful Moonrise in Thailand
A beautiful moon rising large over a farm in Sakon Nakhon, Northeast Thailand

Celebrating a Full Moon in Thailand

When people hear about Thailand full moons now, the most well known associations are the full moon parties on the islands. Around 20 years ago, we might have recommended experiencing one of these parties on Kho Phangan or the island of Kho Samui. But today these parties have devolved into more chaos than unbridled fun (becoming unsafe for many). So, we suggest that the best way to celebrate a full moon in Thailand is the traditional way.

To celebrate a full moon is Thailand like the ancients is to bathe outside under the moonlight. Thai tradition holds that an outdoor bath on the evening of a full moon brings the full power of the moon to your aid, cleansing bad things from your body and mind, and creating auspicious conditions for the future. It is a perfect way to round out a day of temple visits in Sakon Nakhon, or an afternoon of hiking through the province’s mystical forests.

Thailand Full Moon Calendar Dates (2023-2024)

2023 Full Moons: Jan 7th, Feb 6th, March 7th, April 6th, May 6th, June 4th, July 3rd, Aug 2nd (Super Full Moon), Aug 31st (Super Full Moon) Sep 29th, Oct 29th, Nov 27th, Dec 27th

2024 Full Moons: Jan 25th, Feb 24th, March 25th, April 23rd, May 23rd, June 21st, July 21st, Aug 19th, Sept 17th (Super Full Moon), Oct 17th (Super Full Moon), Nov 15th, Dec 15th