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Visakha Bucha Day in Thailand (2024)

Visakha Bucha Day (วันวิสาขบูชา), also known as Vesak Day, is one of the most important Buddhist holidays celebrated in Thailand. It commemorates three significant events in the life of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha: his birth, his enlightenment, and his passing away, which are said to have all occurred on the same day: the full moon day of the sixth lunar month. This year the holiday falls on the 22nd of May, 2024.

The history of Visakha Bucha Day traces back over 2,500 years ago to the time of the Buddha himself. The Buddha was born in Lumbini, in present-day Nepal, around 563 BCE. He attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India, and later passed away in Kushinagar, India.

These three events in the life of the Buddha form the basis of Visakha Bucha Day, which is known as “Wan Wí-săa-kà Boo-chaa” (วันวิสาขบูชา) in the Thai language. If we break the name down, the Thai word “wan” means “day,” the word “wí-săa-kà” means 6th lunar month, and the word “boocha” means worship.

This Buddhist holiday should not be confused with Asahna Bucha Day, which is celebrated this year on July 20th, and marks the day of the Buddha’s first sermon

How Thailand Celebrates Vesak Day

In Thailand, Visakha Bucha Day is celebrated with great reverence and devotion. Devout Buddhists participate in various religious activities throughout the day, including making merit by giving alms to monks, and attending temple ceremonies.

One of the most iconic rituals is the evening (or daybreak) candlelit procession called “Wian Tian” (เวียนเทียน). Thai worshipers walk clockwise around a temple’s “ubosot” (chapel) three times, carrying candles, incense, and lotus flowers, while chanting prayers and reflecting on the teachings of the Buddha.

This symbolic act honors the Triple Gem: The Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (faith community). It also represents the participants’ commitment to following the Noble Eightfold Path that ends a life of suffering. These include right views, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.

In addition to formal religious rituals, many Thai Buddhists also will abstain from eating meat or drinking alcohol on Visakha Bucha Day, and engage in acts of kindness and compassion. Some may take part in meditation retreats or listen to Dharma talks to deepen their understanding of Buddhist teachings.

Candlelight processions on Visakha Bucha Day usually occur between 4pm and 8pm. However, at some Thai temples the procession occurs at 6am, so people can attend before going to their workplace.

Everyone is welcome to participate in a Vesak candlelight procession. However, as a foreigner, it probably is best to take part only if you are asked to do so. If you are fortunate enough to be invited, these are the admonitions:

1. When starting the “Wian Tian” candlelight procession, be mindful of your body, speech, and mind.

2. Keep your walking distance away from the person in front of you. Do not let the heat from incense sticks or candles be dangerous to others.

3. Walk in an orderly candlelight procession, not passing anyone, and not walking too fast or too slow.

4. Do not talk or make any noise that disturbs others during the candlelight procession.

5. Cultivate mental meditation and remember the virtues of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

6. After completing 3 trips around the temple’s ubosot (chapel), place flowers, incense sticks, and candles in the prepared place.

The most eventful candlelight processions on Vesak Day take place at the most revered temples of a province — and often there will be other ritual events held during the days leading up to the Buddhist holy day.

For example, in Sakon Nakhon the most elaborate Visakha Bucha Day celebrations are held at Wat Phra That Choeng Chum Worawihan (วัดพระธาตุเชิงชุมวรวิหาร), located in the city’s downtown, from May 18th – 22nd, 2024.

Other smaller celebrations and candlelight processions are held at select Buddhist temples throughout Sakon Nakhon province, which is considered Northeast Thailand’s spiritual mecca.


Wat Phra That Choeng Chum Worawihan
One of the most well-known candlelight processions on Vesak Day is around this ubosot at Wat Phra That Choeng Chum in Sakon Nakhon, Northeast Thailand.

The 3 Principles of Visakha Bucha Day

Buddhists in Thailand are asked to reflect upon 3 primary principles on Visakha Bucha Day, in order to show their devotion to the dharma (teachings of the Buddha). These are Gratitude, the 4 Noble Truths, and Mindfulness.


In Thailand, gratitude is referred to as gà-dtan-yoo (กตัญญู), and it has a slightly different connotation, especially during Buddhist events like Visakha Bucha Day. It means knowing and acknowledging the merit of your benefactors, as well as returning the favors that have been bestowed upon you.

In Thailand, the two primary benefactors to which everyone is expected to show gratitude are parents and teachers. Gratitude is shown to one’s parents by caring for them, doing one’s share of work around the house, and behaving oneself (so as not to ruin the family’s reputation).

Teachers are to be shown gratitude by being diligent in one’s learning, sharing generously of one’s wisdom, protecting those who are younger than you, and being an overall good person who is worthy of the respect of your teachers.

Meanwhile, parents and teachers in Thailand are encouraged to meditate on how well they have been role models of good behavior to the young who are under their tutelage — and thus be worthy of gratitude. Teachers also should question whether they have been teaching to their fullest ability, and contemplate how they can improve.

Thai parents and teachers will sometimes be presented with gifts and offered special thanks on Visakha Bucha Day as a sign of gratitude.


Visakha Bucha Day is a time when Buddhists in Thailand are encouraged to meditate on the 4 Noble Truths. These truths form the core of Buddha’s teachings, beginning with the truth of suffering (Dukkha), which asserts that life inherently involves suffering, dissatisfaction, and distress.

The second truth, the origin of suffering (Samudaya), identifies desire or craving rooted in ignorance as the primary cause of suffering.

The third truth, the cessation of suffering (Nirodha), offers hope by stating that eliminating desire can extinguish suffering, leading to a state of liberation and peace.

The fourth and final truth, the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga), prescribes the Eightfold Path as the practical guide to achieving this liberation by cultivating ethical conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom.


The last Vesak principle is “mindfulness”. In Thai, this is referred to as “kwaam mâi bprà-màat” (ความไม่ประมาท), which means not being careless. We are called on never to be careless in our thoughts, words, and deeds. But always be mindful of what we say and do in our daily lives.

It also means to be mindful of “The Four Postures of Movement,” which are walking, standing, sitting, and lying down — for our physical postures impact the nature of our thoughts and actions. We must make a conscious determination to always be mindful of our bodily movements and posture as we undertake the daily tasks of life, and journey through Visakha Bucha Day on the sacred path to enlightenment.

David Alan