Mother’s Day in Thailand

Lights deck the royal avenue. Portraits of the Queen, mother of the nation, rise throughout the country. The sweet, pure scent of jasmine fills the air. Children kneel at their mothers’ feet and tears flow freely. These are the scenes and experiences to behold during each Mother’s Day in Thailand.

While Mother’s Day is held dear in many cultures throughout the world, Mother’s Day in Thailand is doubly special. Celebrated on the Queen’s birthday, August 12th, the holiday rings forth with pageantry, emotion and beauty.

Read on to learn more about Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, how Thais celebrate Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day gifts in Thailand, the dates when Mother’s Day is held, and a few useful phrases – like Happy Mother’s Day – in Thai.

Gilded portraits of Her Majesty the Queen and glimmering lights line the royal avenue Ratchadamnoen in Bangkok in the days leading up to Mother’s Day in Thailand.
(Photo Credit: Vincent F)

About Her Majesty Queen Sirikit

As the wife of the longest reigning monarch in the world, His Majesty King Bhumibol (Rama the IX), Her Majesty Queen Sirikit is also the world’s longest reigning royal consort, having presided over the Kingdom of Thailand in her royal role for over 6o years.

As a young queen, she rose to prominence in part for her grace and beauty. Embracing the elegance of Thai silks, she played a key role in the revival and growth of this Thai art, and in the period surrounding Thailand’s Mother’s Day celebrations, you are likely to see a number of portraits of her from throughout her reign, clad in exquisite dresses of this quintessentially Thai material. Her Majesty is also renowned for extensive charity work, including the work of the Thai Red Cross and numerous development projects throughout the country.

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Regarded as Mother of the Nation, Queen Sirikit’s birthday has been declared Thailand’s official Mother’s Day. On August 12th of each year, the two occasions are celebrated in concert – with public festivities such as parades and ceremonies and private family get-togethers and intimate outpourings of emotion between mother and child.

Thailand’s Queen Sirikit. The plaque beneath reads, “Long Live Her Majesty.”
(Photo Credit: Nick Hubbard)
A parade for the Queen’s Birthday and Mother’s Day in Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province. In Thailand, the colour blue is associated with Her Majesty.
(Photo Credit: Heiko S)

How Do Thais Celebrate Mother’s Day?

Like many important occasions, alms giving to monks forms a meaningful part of the traditional Mother’s Day celebrations. Early in the morning, ceremonies are held to give offerings of food to Thailand’s saffron-robed Buddhist monks.

Schools in Thailand typically host a Mother’s Day ceremony. (The ceremony is held perhaps a day before the official holiday as on the day itself all schools, government offices and most businesses are closed.) Students may spend weeks beforehand rehearsing performances and the proper steps of the ceremony. On the special day, mothers come to their child’s school and each child kneels at his or her mother’s feet, paying respect to mom for all that she has done for them. Within these heartfelt moments, it’s common to see mothers wiping tears from their eyes and many children doing the same (and sometimes onlookers as well).

It’s also become quite common for families to celebrate their love for mom by taking her out for a special meal. Particularly in Bangkok and other large cities and developed locations like Chiang Mai and Phuket, many restaurants offer Mother’s Day specials. Hotels and resorts also offer Mother’s Day packages. So if you are visiting or residing in Thailand during this period you may want to be on the look out for restaurant and hotel specials.

Thai jasmine – a symbol of motherhood
(Photo Credit: Scott Zona)

Mother’s Day Gifts in Thailand

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The traditional Mother’s Day gift in Thailand is jasmine. This delicate white flower is imbued with a sweet perfumed fragrance. Called “dok mali” in Thai (ดอกมะลิ), jasmine is used in worship and is also seen as symbol of purity, gentleness and motherhood. Jasmine is sold in open white blossoms (its most characteristic form as a symbol of motherhood) as well as in exquisitely crafted flower garlands and white fabric or other synthetic blossoms.

Like in many other countries, children will often create a handmade Mother’s Day card. Young children and adult children may also give their mother a special gift in addition to or instead of jasmine. Foods, sweets, jewelry, handbags, tech gizmos, warm messages in a phone call, a special lunch, a weekend at the beach, a sprig of jasmine — the gifts vary widely according to each familyม each child’s age and their circumstances, but the sentiment is always is the same… thanking mom and honoring her for her sacrifice and dedication.

Flower garlands for sale on a Thai street
(Photo Credit: Irene2005)

When Is Mother’s Day in Thailand?

The current date of Mother’s Day in Thailand is August 12, held each year. However, the history of Mother’s Day in Thailand has seen a number of dates and off-and-on periods of celebration.

Thailand’s first Mother’s Day was held April 10, 1943. Due to the upheaval of World War II, Mother’s Day did not become a formally established, recurring holiday until 1950 when it began to be celebrated again, this time on April 15. Mother’s Day celebrations continued on this date for a number of years – though with changing governments it eventually faded away again. The holiday made a one-year comeback on October 4, 1972 (this time sponsored by a teacher’s association) but did not take yet take root. Finally, Mother’s Day was established in its current form in co-celebration with the Queen’s birthday in 1976. Since then it has become an important national holiday, celebrated to much fanfare year after year.

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While the official date of Mother’s Day in Thailand is August 12, in many years the government also deems one more official day of holiday. Specifically, if August 12 falls on a weekend, then Friday or Monday will be deemed an observance day, giving the country a 3-day weekend. Some people will even take the opportunity to request an additional day off so they can celebrate a 4-day holiday. (Thais love their holidays!)

When is Mother’s Day in Thailand in 2015?

In 2015, Mother’s Day is Wednesday, August 12.

How Do You Say “Happy Mother’s Day?” in Thai?

The words for “Mother’s Day” in the Thai language are “Wan Mae” (วันแม่).

To say “Happy Mother’s Day” in Thai, you say: “Suksan Wan Mae” (สุขสันต์วันแม่).

To say “I love you Mom” in Thai, you say: “Rak Mae” (รักแม่). This is an easy but very popular expression used on Mother’s Day.

A mother looks after her children on a train ride from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.
(Photo Credit: Enrico Donelli)
A happy mother and child in Thailand
(Photo Credit: David Dennis)
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