What is the Date System in Thailand: Understanding the Thai Calendar

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Thailand’s date and time notation is unique as it incorporates elements from both the Western Gregorian calendar and traditional Thai lunar calendars. The country uses the Thai solar calendar as its primary method for denoting dates, which aligns closely with the Gregorian system used internationally. However, the year count in the Thai calendar is offset by 543 years ahead of the Common Era, reflecting the Buddhist Era (BE) which commemorates the historical Buddha’s passing into Nirvana. As a result, the year 2024 in the Gregorian calendar is indicated as the year 2567 BE in Thailand.

A calendar with Thai months and dates, alongside a clock showing the local time in Thailand

In daily life, Thais typically write the date with the day followed by the month and year. While the international standard ISO 8601 has been adopted, with its year-first format, Thai official documents and personal use still commonly reflect the D/M/YYYY format, such as “30 January 2567 BE.” Furthermore, legal, governmental, and formal business documents often use the year in the Buddhist Era, underscoring its importance in official matters.

Time notation in Thailand resembles the 24-hour method prevalent across the world, yet in spoken language, it incorporates terms to distinguish hours into periods, similar to a.m. and p.m. in the 12-hour system. The differentiation of periods simplifies communication and understanding, even though in written form, the 24-hour clock prevails. For instance, midnight is often referred to as “เที่ยงคืน” (thiang khuen), directly correlating to 00:00 on the clock.

Overview of the Thai Calendar System

The Thai calendar system incorporates both the traditional Thai lunar calendar and the solar calendar used internationally. The solar calendar, based on the Gregorian system, is employed for most official and secular purposes. It is referred to as the Thai Solar Calendar, and the years in this system are denoted as Buddhist Era (B.E.) dates, which are 543 years ahead of the Common Era (C.E.) or Gregorian calendar.

To illustrate, the year 2024 C.E. aligns with the year 2567 B.E. in the Thai solar calendar. This calendar system commences from the epochal date marking the year in which Buddhists believe Buddha attained parinibbāna, or complete Nirvana.

The Thai calendar has also been influenced by elements from the Hindu cosmology, which introduce a set of traditional lunisolar timekeeping practices. Despite the solar calendar’s prevalence, the lunar calendar maintains significance in determining traditional festivals and religious events. Thai lunar months correspond to the phases of the moon, beginning with the new moon and accounting for 12 or occasionally 13 synodic months to coincide with the solar year.

Thai New Year, known as Songkran, typically falls in mid-April and signifies the start of the new year in the Thai lunar calendar. This period marks a major national celebration and transitions the year count.

In daily life, Thais frequently use the solar calendar for civil matters, yet they may refer to lunar calendar dates for cultural and religious observances, maintaining a dual calendrical system that is distinctly Thai.

Suriyakhati: The Thai Solar Calendar

A golden sun radiates warmth over a traditional Thai calendar, adorned with intricate designs and symbols representing the solar system

The Suriyakhati, which is Thailand’s solar calendar, aligns closely with the Western Gregorian system but is rooted in the country’s own historical context and cultural practices. It is utilized for most civil purposes and interweaves both Buddhist and traditional Thai cultural elements.

Origin and History

The Thai solar calendar, or Suriyakhati, was officially adopted in 1888 during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). He replaced the traditional Thai lunar calendar with Suriyakhati, bringing Thailand’s timekeeping into alignment with the Gregorian calendar while also maintaining continuity with local Buddhist traditions.

Structure and Months

The Suriyakhati follows the same monthly structure as the Gregorian calendar, consisting of 12 months. Each month corresponds to the same season and environmental patterns as observed globally. For example, January is in the middle of the dry season, while July signifies the onset of the rainy season in Thailand.

Months in the Thai Solar Calendar:

  • January (มกราคม)
  • February (กุมภาพันธ์)
  • March (มีนาคม)
  • April (เมษายน)
  • May (พฤษภาคม)
  • June (มิถุนายน)
  • July (กรกฎาคม)
  • August (สิงหาคม)
  • September (กันยายน)
  • October (ตุลาคม)
  • November (พฤศจิกายน)
  • December (ธันวาคม)

Years and Eras

Years in Suriyakhati are denoted by the Buddhist Era (BE), which is 543 years ahead of the Common Era (CE). For instance, the year 2567 BE in the Thai calendar equates to 2024 CE of the Gregorian calendar. This system intertwines the Buddhist religious significance with the practical civil use of the solar calendar.

Chandrakhati: The Thai Lunar Calendar

The Chandrakhati, or Thai lunar calendar, traces its origins back to ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions and has been a cornerstone in marking time and celebrating festivals in Thailand for centuries.

Phases of the Moon

The Thai lunar calendar ties directly to the moon’s cycles, basing months around the waxing and waning of the moon. A full lunar month, from one new moon to the next, averages approximately 29.53 days. This results in months that can be either 29 or 30 days long, with the calendar requiring adjustments, such as intercalation, to align with the astronomical lunar year and keep seasons on track.

Festivals and Holidays

Key Thai festivals and holidays are set according to the lunar calendar. For example, Loy Krathong, known as the festival of lights, occurs on the night of the full moon during the 12th lunar month. Similarly, Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year, begins on the first day of the fifth lunar month. Such celebrations are deeply embedded in Thai culture, and their dates can vary each year when compared against the Gregorian calendar.

Thai Numerals and Date Notation

In Thailand, the official calendar is based on the Thai solar calendar, which aligns with the Buddhist Era (BE). The Buddhist Era calendar is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar, meaning the year 2024 AD translates to 2567 BE in Thailand.

Dates in Thailand are often notated using Thai numerals. However, Arabic numerals are also commonly used, especially in more formal or international contexts. Thai numerals and their Arabic equivalents from zero to nine are as follows:

Thai NumeralArabic Numeral

When writing the date, Thai people typically follow the format of day, month, and year. For example, April 26, 2024, would be written as 26 เมษายน 2567 in the Thai date format using Thai script for the month (Date and time notation in Thailand).

In official documents, the use of the BE year is standard, and there are instances where dates may be notated in a combination of Thai and Arabic numerals for the day and year, with the month often spelled out in Thai. For instance, the date can also appear as 26 เมษายน 2567 or 26/04/2567 (Understanding the Thailand Date Format: A Comprehensive Guide). It is crucial for visitors and those doing business in Thailand to familiarize themselves with these conventions to avoid confusion and ensure accurate communication.

Conversion Between Thai and Gregorian Calendar

The Thai solar calendar currently in use in Thailand has its years numbered according to the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. This means a simple conversion is necessary to translate years from one system to the other.

To convert a Thai year to a Gregorian year: Subtract 543 from the Thai year. For example, the Thai year 2567 converted to the Gregorian system is 2024.

To convert a Gregorian year to a Thai year: Add 543 to the Gregorian year. The year 2024 in the Gregorian calendar translates to the Thai year 2567.

Conversion Steps:

  1. Identify the year you wish to convert.
  2. Apply the conversion formula based on the direction of your conversion (Thai to Gregorian or Gregorian to Thai).

Example Conversion:

Thai Year (BE)Conversion (+/-)OffsetGregorian Year (AD)

It’s necessary to keep in mind that the Thai calendar also incorporates the Western calendar, so the day-to-day dates align with the Gregorian system. However, years are counted according to the Buddhist Era. Online tools are available that can convert Thai Buddhist dates to the Gregorian calendar for ease and accuracy.

This conversion is crucial for understanding official documents, celebrating holidays, and historical events within the context of a global timeline. The method remains consistent and is vital for cross-cultural communications and records management.

Significance of the Buddhist Era in Thailand

A traditional Thai calendar with Buddhist Era dates, a lotus flower, and a temple in the background

In Thailand, the Buddhist Era (BE) is the cornerstone of the country’s traditional date system, setting it apart as the only nation to officially use this calendar. The Thai year is often represented with the initials พศ when written alongside dates, reflecting its local name PuttaSakarat.

The use of the Buddhist Era is deeply interwoven with the cultural and religious fabric of Thailand. Official documents, newspapers, and public signs display dates according to this system. As such, it not only serves as a chronological reference but also as a symbol of the nation’s Buddhist heritage. Conversion between the Buddhist Era and the Gregorian calendar necessitates the addition of 543 years to the common era year.

Celebrations and holidays in Thailand often align with the lunar phases of the Buddhist calendar. These include the Thai New Year, known as Songkran, and the Wan Phra or Buddhist Sabbath days that recur according to the lunar cycle. These days are marked with red numerals on calendars, signaling their significance for planning and observance of traditional customs.

The adoption of the Buddhist Era reinforces national identity and imbues daily life with a sense of continuity from Thailand’s historical past. It reaffirms the influence of Buddhism on Thai society, as this timekeeping system honors the year of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment.

For an in-depth understanding of the Buddhist Era, one can refer to The Buddhist Era: How to Read Thai Dates, which provides valuable insights into its application and relevance in Thailand.

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Globe-trotting with a flair for the fearless, Sierra Blake crafts vivid tales and insider tips from the world’s hidden corners, inspiring wanderlust in the heart of every reader.



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