Makha Bucha Day is a Buddhist holiday celebrated in Thailand. It is based on the Buddhist Lunar Calendar and comes in February or March on the Gregorian Calendar. The celebration is held during the third lunar month of the year (which will be held on 19th February this year) because Buddha is said to have delivered certain of his teachings at this time.
What does Makha Bucha mean?
Where does the name for the Makha Bucha Day holiday come from? Well, the Buddhist calendar traditionally used in Thailand is a lunar one, and the third lunar month is known in Thai as ‘makha’.
The term ‘makha’ in turn comes from the word ‘Magha’ in Pali, the sacred language of the religious texts of the Theravada strand of Buddhism most widely practised in Thailand. Meanwhile, ‘bucha’ is a Thai word – once again deriving from the Pali language, this time from the word Puja – which means ‘to venerate’ or ‘to honour’.
Therefore, the term Makha Bucha is taken to refer to a day intended for honouring the third lunar month and, in particular, the Buddha and the teachings that he delivered on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month. Note that in a leap year, Makha Bucha Day may instead be held on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month.
How is Makha Bucha Day celebrated in Thailand?
As well as Thailand, Makha Bucha Day is celebrated in other countries including Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. It first came to be celebrated in modern-day Thailand during the reign of King Rama IV, first observed only in the ground of the royal palace and later becoming more widely recognised nationally and finally introduced as a Thai public holiday.
As is common on all manner of Buddhist holidays in Thailand, it is common for Thai Buddhists to visit their local temple to make merit on Makha Bucha Day. While at the temple, they might also listen to Buddhist teachings, give alms to monks, recite Buddhist scriptures, and participate in the evening candlelight processions around the ordination hall that are held by many temples.
If you want to get your own insight into local celebrations of Makha Bucha Day in Thailand, simply stop by the local temple closest to wherever you are staying in Bangkok or elsewhere. Most will be happy to welcome inquisitive souls and to let you observe – or even participate in – processions and other activities to mark the holiday.
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