Thai Mother’s Day 2023

Thailand
12 August 2023

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Regardless of each country or community’s distinct traditions, Mother’s Day is celebrated across the world, showing appreciation and recognition for the mothers and maternal figures in our lives.

While International Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday of May, Thailand’s Mother’s Day specifically marks the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother, on August 12th.

Mother to the People

Mother’s Day ceremony at Sanam Luang, Bangkok. Source: anucha sirivisansu / Shutterstock.com

Thailand first introduced Mother’s Day or Wan Mae on April 15th, 1950. But just as His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great (King Rama IX) came to be known as father to his people, so too did Her Majesty Queen Sirikit become mother.

Queen Sirikit is especially revered due to her leadership abilities. When His Majesty King Bhumibol entered a customary period of Buddhist monkhood in 1956, she excelled in her duties as Queen Regent and officially became Regent of Thailand during the King’s period of monkhood. 

Her efforts as Queen were a strong complement to King Rama IX, who dedicated royal initiatives to improving the lives of farmers and the sustainable management of natural resources. Among her many royal works, Queen Sirikit empowered Thai women to earn their own income from their handicrafts through her SUPPORT Foundation, helping to lift rural communities out of poverty while simultaneously conserving traditional craftsmanship.

The Queen Mother’s love for the people is, therefore, likened to the bond between a mother and her children, and the date of National Mother’s Day was changed in 1976 from April 15th to August 12th to fall on her birthday.

Thai traditions for Mother’s Day

Students offering jasmine garlands to their mothers at a school ceremony for Thai Mother’s Day. Source: Warah38 / Shutterstock.com

Preparations for the Queen Mother’s birthday begin a few weeks prior to the date itself, with people nationwide decorating their homes and workplaces with a portrait of Her Majesty, as well as national flags and flags bearing her emblem.

In Bangkok, the area surrounding the Grand Palace is adorned with lights, as preparations are made for firework displays to mark the day. In the evening, there is a ceremony hosted at Sanam Luang, where government officials light candles in obeisance to the Queen Mother.

Like other cultural holidays on the Thai calendar, National Mother’s Day begins with a morning almsgiving to Buddhist monks, who embark on a daily trek through areas near the temple to receive alms and offer prayers.

Mother’s Day preparations also extend to schools, where mothers are often invited so that their child may prostrate at their feet—a common gesture of deep respect in Thailand, especially for parents. If you want to wish someone a “Happy Mother’s Day,” try saying, “Suk san wan mae.”

Jasmine flowers on Thai Mother’s Day

Source: kateko / Shutterstock.com

During this day, white jasmine flowers or dok mali are a common sight in Thailand, as they symbolize the purity of a mother’s unconditional love. Garlands of white jasmine are offered from child to mother, grandmother, and other maternal figures.