November is a lovely time to visit Thailand. The wet season ends, and the weather stays warm, but it’s not too hot. The only problem is that a November visit coincides with Thanksgiving, so if that’s a potential deal-breaker, you might ask, “do they celebrate Thanksgiving in Thailand?”
Thailand does not celebrate the American version of Thanksgiving; however, several restaurants and hotels “celebrate” with those that do, particularly in Bangkok. Several countries celebrate a holiday similar to Thanksgiving, related to the harvesting season.
Related: Are There Turkeys In Thailand? | Do They Celebrate Halloween In Thailand? | Do They Celebrate Christmas In Thailand?
While Thanksgiving is a predominantly North American holiday, the sentiments are global. If you’re traveling abroad to Thailand and want to hold to your traditions, fear not! Below are some of the recommended ways to celebrate Thanksgiving while in Thailand.
A Guide To Thanksgiving Celebrations In Thailand
For visitors traveling to Thailand during Thanksgiving, it’s important to remember that Thanksgiving is not a Thai holiday, so most of the country does not celebrate it.
However, some places in Bangkok celebrate Thanksgiving or (rather) assist you in celebrating the national holiday from the other side of the globe.
Which Parts Of Thailand Celebrate Thanksgiving?
If you’re planning on traveling around much of Thailand while on holiday, you’ll need to plan your excursions so that you end up in Bangkok.
While Bangkok is the only place that celebrates Thanksgiving in Thailand, it is not across the entire city. Only some restaurants and hotels celebrate Thanksgiving by offering Thanksgiving meal options.
Prominent Areas In Bangkok That Cater For Thanksgiving
If you’re abroad and don’t have the facilities or capacity to cook a Thanksgiving meal, these restaurants have you covered. Note: these restaurants might not offer specialty menus yearly, so calling ahead is recommended.
Some prominent restaurants and hotels include:
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok
Central Embassy, Emquartier, and The Crystal
Grand Hyatt Erawan, Bangkok
JW Marriott Bangkok
Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel, Bangkok
Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park
Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel
Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit
Kimpton Maa-Lai, Bangkok
Centara Grand at CentralWorld
The St. Regis Bangkok
Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit
Most of these restaurants offer turkey, mashed potatoes, and other traditional Thanksgiving food options as a buffet.
Why Do Some Thai Regions Celebrate Thanksgiving?
The world is far more connected than ever, and many cultures “borrow” ideas. There is also a significant amount of international travel and immigration. With the movement of people, ideas, customs, and traditions follow.
Certain regions in Bangkok have considerable numbers of western immigrants, and certain shopping and restaurant chains have opened up.
With the movement of people and their particular preferences, restaurants and hotels won’t miss out on an opportunity to attract greater numbers of guests through their doors, and advertising Thanksgiving meals/events is a sure win.
These restaurants help foreign visitors, and immigrants feel more at home/welcome while making Thailand an appealing destination during November (arguably the best time to visit Thailand).
Why Don’t All Regions In Thailand Celebrate Thanksgiving?
Although Thanksgiving traces its origins back to harvest festivals (popular amongst many religions over the millennia), the US version of Thanksgiving is largely Christian orientated, namely giving thanks to the Christian God for a bountiful harvest, etc.
Thailand is Buddhist, and most Christian holidays don’t mean much to the populace (except for Christmas). Therefore, Thanksgiving is not prominent for the Thai people, who have a rich cultural heritage.
While visiting Thailand, experiencing the local customs and cultures is essential, so if you’re visiting around November and you’re up for a change of pace, you could try and attend one of the following festivals/celebrations:
Loy Krathong Festival
“The Festival of Lights” (Loy Krathong) is a beautiful celebration of the “water-goddess” provisions and a good harvest season (similar to the harvest celebrations that Thanksgiving originates from).
Aside from thanking the goddess for her provisions, the festival also allows people to ask for forgiveness, particularly for polluting water bodies. Participants also let all negativity “float away” with the offerings. Some people include fingernails or little hairpieces to signify letting go of all their “bad” parts.
The Thai people gather around different water bodies (traditionally, the “klongs” were small canals and rivers, but lakes and ponds are a recent addition), where they release small, lotus-shaped boats (called krathongs) onto the water.
They usually adorn these small rafts with candles and incense, adding to the “magic” of the night. This annual celebration is usually in November, coinciding with the 12th lunar moon.
Although releasing the krathongs is the main focus, the festival features various other activities, including:
- Ram Wong dancers
- Competitions for the best-made krathong
- Beauty contests
Lai Rua Fai
The Illuminated Boat Procession is a Thai festival held each year in 12 districts of the Nakhon Phanom (the northeastern region of Thailand) during the 11th lunar month (usually October).
This festival celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent (or Buddhist Rains retreat). The celebration centers around various folklore, but one of the prominent versions is that Buddha visited the Naga who live in the Mekong River to teach them Buddhism.
This Thai celebration marks a time when people pay homage to the Mekong River and ask for forgiveness for any wrongs they’ve committed. In ancient times the boats were set on fire, and attendees could place hair or fingernails before it was lit to burn away the negative energy.
The celebrations feature boats decorated with dazzling lights (lanterns and hand-carved candles), flowers, and other decorations. Festival organizers release these boats in the evening, lighting up the Mekong River.
Aside from the boats, other festivities include:
- Boating races
- Phra That Phanom worship dancers
- Merchant caravans
The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is celebrated around the same time as Loy Krathong. The festival marks the end of the Monsoon season, where attendees release thousands of lanterns (called khom loy) into the Chiang Mai night sky.
Aside from the end of the wet season, this festival allows attendees to release negative energy and misfortunes while hoping for good fortune and luck in the coming year.
This ancient festival probably began during the Lan Na Kingdom (1296 to 1556) as it closely ties with Buddha and honors the Buddha.
Aside from the lanterns, this festival includes:
- Candle decorations along “sois” (lanes)
- Releasing krathongs down the Ping River
- Lantern decoration competitions
Thanksgiving From A Global Perspective
Thanksgiving is traditionally a North American (including Canada) celebration and annual holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.
Americans trace the holiday’s origins to 1621 when the British settlers of Plymouth, Massachusetts, (allegedly) shared a harvest feast with the Wampanoag people (although there were earlier references to the thanksgiving meal of 1619 when the first settlers arrived in Virginia).
Since then, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving, where they “give thanks” for safe journeys, peace, and bountiful harvests, among other things. Since the 1800s, Thanksgiving has lost some of its religious “reserves.” People from other walks of life began celebrating the holiday in the US.
Although the Canadian Thanksgiving is similar in what and why they celebrate, the Canadians trace their celebration of the holiday to 1578, when the colonists celebrated the safe return of an expeditionary fleet under Martin Frobisher (other sources say it was to celebrate the harvest season).
Other countries which celebrate Thanksgiving include:
- Liberia – celebrates the return of enslaved people to their ancestral homes in the 1800s from the US.
- Grenada – celebrates the 1983 US invasion.
- Netherlands – Before the pilgrims moved to the US; they lived in Leiden for 11 years.
- Australia – only in restricted areas, brought by whaling ships from the US.
- Germany (Erntedankfest (’harvest thanks festival’)) and Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan are harvest day festivals.
- Saint Lucia – also celebrates a harvest day festival.