Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival 2024

The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival ushers in the beginning of the monsoon season in Thailand and revolves around Buddhist holidays.
Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand
17 July 2024

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The extravagant Candle Festival ushers in the beginning of the monsoon season in Thailand. As a lunar holiday, the Candle Festival this year is held from July 17th to 23rd, 2024. The Candle Float parade will take place on July 20th and 21st, 2024.

Despite being celebrated throughout Thailand, few cities hold the festival quite like Ubon Ratchathani, which is located in the Esan region around 500 kilometers northeast of the capital city of Bangkok.

Origins of the Candle Festival

Candle float at Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
Source: STK_08 / Shutterstock.com

The Candle Festival has its origin etched in tradition and religion. It is held during Asalha Bucha and Khao Phansa days—two watershed Buddhist events that mark Buddha’s first sermon and the start of Vassa (sometimes referred to as Buddhist Lent), respectively. The celebration involves colorful parades of majestic and lavish candle wax sculptures accompanied by Thai traditional music and dance.

Long before the invention of electricity, Thai Buddhists had been collecting and donating candles to their local temples to ensure that they stayed illuminated for monks who needed light to study through the three-month Vassa period. This donation of candles, which were purely for merit-making, took a symbolic turn following the invention of electricity, and the candles became elaborate and grander with time.

Locals in traditional Thai dresses at Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
Source: Nikorn Kulatnam / Shutterstock.com

Modern celebrations

Despite being a religious and merit-making event, locals aren’t too self serious to have a bit of fun. Though alcohol sales tend to be restricted during religious observances, there’s a plethora of activities, including food, music, boxing matches, and candle-wax sculpture contests to add excitement to the festivities.

Candle wax sculptures made by talented Thai artisans
Source: PLUEMSCAPE / Shutterstock.com

Candle wax sculptures

In anticipation and preparation for the festivities, talented artisans make remarkable and colorful wax sculptures of prominent Buddhist figures. Similarly, The Candle Float parade features a large procession of youths wearing traditional attire and dancing to Thai music. 

The festival also hosts an international sculpting contest on the Asalha Bucha Day in the town center. Here, the candle wax sculptures can tower as high as 20 meters and are elaborately decorated with traditional Thai patterns. The statues are paraded throughout the evening, and several other small candlelit processions are also conducted. The Candle Festival marks the last festive celebration in Thailand before the inception of the Buddhist Rains Retreat, which is sometimes referred to as Buddhist Lent.

If you are captivated by the idea of a flashy festival marked with an elaborate display of Thai music, food, dance, and massive candle wax sculptures, then the Candle Festival in Thailand will definitely leave you in awe.