It’s difficult to spend any time in Thailand without seeing pictures of and tributes to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-serving head of state and Thailand’s longest-reigning monarch. Having sat on the throne since 1946, he has been in power for 66 years. So what does all this have to do with Father’s Day? Thais celebrate their fathers on the King’s birthday (he is seen as the father of the nation) and their mothers on the Queen’s birthday which is in August.
Thailand celebrates King Bhumibol’s birthday in several ways. In each of the 76 provinces there is a governmental celebration, usually at a city hall, where government-ranking officials pay tribute to the King. In addition, the King himself addresses the nation in Bangkok. This is a highly popular affair, where thousands come to honor him and those not in attendance are most likely glued to their TVs.
In this year’s speech, 85-year old King Bhumibol called for unity and stability throughout Thailand, which was no doubt a reaction to the recent anti-government demonstrations and unrest in Bangkok.
Thais dress in yellow to show their support their King, who was born on a Monday which is known throughout Thailand to correspond with yellow. (For more information, see our previous post on colors and days of the week.)
It is also tradition to light a candle in the King’s honor in the evening after the sun has set. The most unique ways to celebrate the King’s birthday, and all Thai fathers by extension, is the King’s Cup Super 8 Tournament which is held in Bangkok in the Sanam Luang Park facing the King’s palace. The King’s Cup tournament is a day of Muay Thai (Thai boxing) where the winner is handed the King’s Cup directly from the King himself. It is not clear whether King Bhumibol likes boxing in particular or if this is a way to generate good cheer throughout the nation.
Many Thais love King Bhumibol and they have good reason to. With a net worth of over $30 billion, he is consistently listed as one of the world’s wealthiest royals. King Bhumibol has given millions of his own money to support many of his Royal Projects, which include organic farming, replacing the opium trade with other types of means to make a living and other such projects for the betterment of the nation.Others were just happy to have a day off work!
Stay tuned for more adventures!