In Thailand, the 5th December, which is the birthday of the current King His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej or the King Rama IX of Chakri Dynasty, is considered as the Father’s Day of the nation. It is the auspicious day since the King is venerated as the father of the nation from all of Thai people and also many people around the world.

King Rama IX has reigned Thailand since 1950, making him the world’s longest-serving current head of state and the longest-reigning monarch ever in Thailand’s history.

The King’s father, Prince Mahidol, was studying medicine at Harvard University at the time of the King’s birth. Prince Bhumibol’s father died at an early age and his mother moved to Switzerland where the young prince started his studies. Prince Bhumibol’s interests during this time were photography, science and technology but he had to enroll in law and political science to prepare for his duties as head of state. While finishing his degree in Switzerland, Prince Bhumibol visited Paris frequently where he first met Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. A quiet engagement in Lausanne followed on 19 July 1949, and the couple were married on 28 April 1950, just a week before the King’s coronation.

The King and Queen are revered for their generosity and caring for Thai people and the numerous royal projects aimed at improving their life and health

royal_flag_of_king_ramaDespite being a constitutional monarch, and not legally being allowed a role in politics, King Bhumibol has made several decisive interventions in the Thai political sphere and has been credited with helping facilitate Thailand’s transition to democracy in the 1990s. In theoretical terms the king has limited powers in the day-to-day governing of Thailand. He does, however, have vast moral authority. His advice and counsel is sought on many of the important decisions of the Thai government.

The holiday itself is a colorful affair. Buildings across Thailand display flags, bunting and portraits of the King, while around the Grand Palace area of Bangkok, the streets are decorated with thousands of marigolds. Marigolds are chosen for their yellow color, as the King was born on a Monday and in Thailand, yellow is the color for Monday and celebrations.

In the early morning, people make merit at the temple for themselves and also for paying homage to the King. During the day, fathers and their children spend time together and some children give to their fathers the Canna flower (Dok Phuttharaksa), the symbolic flower of father’s day.

The highlight is in the evening. In Bangkok, people gather at the Royal Plaza to join the auspicious ceremony of candle lighting, showing the respect to the King and also making a wish for his longevity. The lighting candle is not held only in Bangkok, but also across Thailand.