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There are many standard calendars around the world, and most of them start with the birth of some strongly influential person. The standard international calendar starts with the birth of Christ as year 1, with anything before then being labeled as BC. In North Korea, year 1 starts with the birth of Kim Il Sung. And in the Buddhist calendar, it starts with the death of Buddha. Keep in mind there are various versions of the Buddhist calendar, so I’ll be specifically referring to the Thai Buddhist calendar in this article.
According to the Thai calendar, Buddha passed away 2554 years ago (this article was written in 2011), or about 543 years before Jesus. So if you ever wanted to know what Thai year it was using the Christian calendar, just add 543. It’s an easy number to remember . . .
5 – 4 – 3.
So given that this year is 2554, how would you write that in Thai? Generally Thai’s write it as we do, or 2554. But on rare occasion you’ll see it written in Thai, in which case it’s a number-for-number direct translation. Or ๒๕๕๔.
In case you don’t remember, here are the Thai numbers for reference:
So what month does the Thai year start and end? It starts on January 1st and ends on December 31st, just like in the Christian calendar. But it wasn’t always like that, as before 1940 Thai New Years began in April on Songkran สงกรานต์. Songkran was the Thai New Year. Songkran is still celebrated to this day, but now just as a fun water fight.
When do Thais celebrate New Year’s? The short answer is the last day of December, again in February, and once more in mid-April. In other words, the international New Year, the Chinese New Year, and the Thai New Year – that’s a lot of New Year’s parties! Songkran in mid-April is however the biggest new year’s celebration, officially lasting about 3 days.
How do you say ‘near years’ in Thai? ปีใหม่, or bee1 mai2. New years day would be วันปีใหม่, or wan1 bee1 mai2.
For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_calendar
A video of a Thai new year’s celebration above the Chao Phraya River: