UPDATE: The cabinet has decided to remove the Coronation Day of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on 5 May as a national holiday effective 2017.
Coronation Day, or in Thai “Wan Chatramongkol,” is a public holiday in Thailand that falls on every 5th of May, though the date is moved to the following Monday should May 5th come on a weekend. The holiday commemorates the 1950 coronation of the present king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej.
King Bhumibol began his long reign in Thailand on June 9th of 1946, but it was only on May 5th, 1950, that he was officially crowned and given the title “King Rama IX.” He is the 9th monarch of the long-continued Chakri Dynasty, has reigned longer than any other previous Thai king, and is currently the longest-reigning of all world monarchs.
The beginning of the tradition of celebrating a coronation day as a national holiday began in 1851 under King Rama IV, but at that time, it was a more private affair of the nobility and of Buddhist monks. Today, it is much more publicised, and the people at large are much more involved. In part, this is because of the great popularity of Rama IX, who is much beloved and a symbol of stability amid the rapid political changes of the previous decades.
Coronation “Day” is actually a three-day affair. On Day One, the 3rd of May, monks gather in the Grand Palace to perform rituals involving chanting and a sermon. The ashes and memory of past Chakri Dynasty kings are honored at this time.
On Day Two, May 4th, the chief Buddhist priest reads the coronation proclamation. Ceremonial chanting follows all evening, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is circled three times. The robe of the Emerald Buddha is also ceremonially changed at this time.
On Day Three, May 5th, the official coronation ceremony is re-enacted. There is a 21-gun salute, a feast of the monks, and an award ceremony wherein the king honours those who have made beneficial contributions to Thai society.
As Labor Day, on May 1st, is also a public holiday, many Thai are off for a very long weekend this time of year. This gives them the chance to attend some of the ceremonies, view them on TV, relax at home, or go on a short vacation.
Besides attending or watching the main ceremonies outlined above, some other things to do on Coronation Day in Thailand are:
- Go to theatres in Bangkok, such as the Thailand Cultural Centre, the National Theatre of Thailand, or the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre. The royal anthem will be played before all films, plays, concerts, and other similar events.
- Tour the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Additional rooms are open for public viewing this time of year, and you will find there is much to explore. The palace complex has many buildings and many beautiful gardens. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand and has been the home of Thai kings since 1782.
Although it is uncertain how important Coronation Day will be when a new king someday takes the throne, under the present much-loved King Rama IX, it is one of the most important dates on the Thai calendar.