112th Anniversary of the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival

112th Anniversary of the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival

The candle festival is held in several provinces in Thailand in observance of the annual three-month Buddhist Lent, or Buddhist Rains Retreat. But this festival in the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani is unique, as it is held on a grand scale and attracts a great many Thai and international tourists.

The year 2013 marks the 112th anniversary of the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival, which reflects age-old traditions and beliefs of the Thai people.

From 10 to 22 July, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is arranging tour programs for tourists to visit several candle communities in Ubon Ratchathani, where they may take part in wax candle carving. The highlight of the festival is scheduled for 20-23 July at Thung Si Mueang Park, which is a major location for the candle procession.

The festival includes a light and sound show, a bazaar of community products, a food fair, a candle procession, and various categories of candle carving. The candles awarded first prizes at the contests will be exhibited in front of the Ubon Ratchathani Municipality Office from 23 to 25 July for everyone to admire.

Larger and taller candles can be carved into figures of mythological creatures, such as the garuda, half bird, half man, and the naga, a guardian serpent. They are usually decorated with intricate Thai designs.

Ubon Ratchathani Governor Wanchai Suthivorachai said that the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival in 2013 is special as visitors would see the world’s first lenten candle made from aromatic beeswax, apart from other elaborate wax carvings. The 14-meter-long aromatic candle is made by the Wat Mueang Det community in Det Udom district. Aromatic beeswax candles are one of the famous One Tambon, One Product, or OTOP, products in this province.

Ubon Ratchathani is noted for quality beeswax, and candle crafting is a delicate art, making a name for this province. The celebration of the candle festival in Ubon Ratchathani has continued from generation to generation. It is meant to pay tribute to the Triple Gem in Buddhism, which includes the Buddha, his teachings, or Dhamma, and his disciples, or the Sangha.

It has long been a tradition for local people to offer carved beeswax candles to temples to celebrate the first day of Buddhist Lent, which, this year, falls on 23 July after Asalha Buja on 22 July. Both Asalha Puja and Buddhist Lent are important occasions, when Buddhists perform merit making and practice Dhamma for peace and happiness.