Every country has its own unique culture and beliefs that make them different from others. Some ideas are based on tradition, while others are based on religion and superstitions.
As Thailand is an Asian country with the majority of local people being Buddhists, many Thai people are very superstitious and have a lot of unique beliefs.
Thailand is home to various myths that are based on a variety of different phenomena and religious events. From wanting to know about pregnancy scares, color codes, mysterious festivals, or the perfect day to cut your hair, there are myths about some of the most peculiar, random, and humorous topics.
Curious to know more? Keep on reading to learn about the beliefs of Thailand, such as how to avoid an old husband or how to steer clear of bad luck.
What Are the Beliefs of Thailand?
1. Don’t Play Hide and Seek After Sunset
This is a widespread story that older people tell to young children. The report entails the hideous horrors of children playing hide and seeks after sunset.
It is said that evil spirits will join the game and use their power to shield the hiding children from human sight so that the seeker won’t be able to find them no matter how much they scream or call for help. These evil spirits will take those lost children to the afterlife (1).
Almost every kid in Thailand knows about this belief, and there are many ghost stories based on its context.
In reality, the origin of this belief is that the parents are concerned about their child’s safety, so they use this story to prevent their children from playing during the night (1). Judging by how every kid knows this belief, this parent rule seems to be working.
2. How To Avoid Getting An Old Husband
Single ladies, this one is for you!
Thai people believe that if you sing while cooking or eating, you will marry an old husband. This is a common myth that teenage girls have probably heard while helping their mothers and grandmothers in the kitchen. (1).
In the past, Thai ladies had the habit of singing while working in the kitchen, which resulted in them accidentally hurting themselves or burning the dishes (2).
So, to prevent such accidents, the elders share this belief with their younger generations. Additionally, it is not a good dining etiquette to be noisy and loud while eating, from where the idea is derived.
3. “Ugly” Babies
In any other country, calling a baby ‘cute’ would bring an instant smile to their parents. However, this is not the case in Thailand.
Thai people believe that calling a baby ‘cute’ or ‘adorable’ would attract the attention of ghosts, like the Krause ghost, which is said to be a disembodied head and intestines of a woman floating around to cause harm to little children (3).
Instead, people will refer to the newborn babies as “ugly” to fool the ghosts by making them lose interest in the babies. Therefore, don’t call babies “cute,” or you will make Thai parents very angry.
Also, don’t feel bad if you are a parent and Thai people call your baby “ugly” because they don’t really mean it and are just protecting them from evil beings.
4. Color Codes
The color ‘black’ is often associated with funerals and mourning, so people avoid wearing black-colored clothes when visiting patients. Wearing all black should be avoided when attending joyful ceremonies, such as weddings or birthday parties.
Also, in Thailand, each day of the week has its own particular color that is believed to bring good luck if worn accordingly. This is because many local people, especially the older generations, believe that color influences their feelings and perceptions, and wearing the particular color assigned to the day they were born would bring good luck to them.
Curious to know which color is assigned to your birthday?
Below is the list of colors and the days of the week associated with them so that you can find your color, too (4):
- Sunday: Red
- Monday: Yellow
- Tuesday: Pink
- Wednesday: Green
- Thursday: Orange
- Friday: Blue
- Saturday: Purple
Want to learn more about the significance of colors in Thailand? Check out our article on Thailand’s Colorful Culture: What Colors Mean to its People
5. Don’t Look Between Your Legs
And no, this is not about something sexual. In Thailand, it is believed that if a person bends down and looks between their legs, that person may see a ghost (5).
This is a widespread and widely known belief among Thai people and has even been used as a plotline in the famous Thai ghost movie ‘Pee Mak.’ In the film, the main character ‘Pee Mak’, finds out the true identity of his wife ‘Nak’ by bending down and looking between his legs (6).
6. Bad Lizards, Good Lizards
Huge monitor lizards are everywhere in Thailand, even in urban areas like Bangkok. They mostly live near the water, like swamps, lakes, and rivers, but they are also seen lazing around on the tree branches or even invading 7-Eleven stores.
And interestingly, different people have different beliefs when it comes to these monitor lizards. Some Thai people think that these monitor lizards bring bad luck as these lizards lurk around the cemeteries and that spirits may follow them to where people live.
Another reason why some people believe that lizards carry bad luck is because they steal chickens and eggs and can even be a threat to small animals. Therefore, people try to chase them away if they find monitor lizards near their places (7).
However, some people consider these gigantic lizards to symbolize wealth and fortune. These people believe that if a monitor lizard is found near your home, it means they are bringing good luck to you and your family. Some might even feed or throw coins at them to increase their good luck (7).
Good or bad, no matter what kind of luck these giant lizards may bring, one thing for sure is that they can be pretty intimidating when coming across within a close distance.
7. No Haircutting on Wednesdays
This is a prevalent belief among Thai people that one should not get their haircut on Wednesday, and doing so would result in bad luck for that person.
This belief is such a widely known and accepted tradition among local people that many local hair salons and barbers close their shops on Wednesday as rarely any guest would come on that day (5).
The origin of this belief comes from the fact that in the past, the King and the royal family got their haircuts on Wednesday. Therefore, the commoners were told that they should not get their haircuts on the same day because it would be seen as rather disrespectful towards the royal family.
Another possible reason for haircuts being forbidden on Wednesdays is that in ancient Thai culture, Wednesday was considered the day of agriculture or a day of growing things. Thus, cutting stuff on such a day would bring bad luck to the people (8).
However, today, this belief has been questioned and not followed by the younger generations.
8. Bird Poops and Lizard Noises
Bird poop and lizard noises are believed to be a sign of bad luck. If a bird poops on you at the start of a day, that means the rest of your day will be full of struggles and bad luck (9).
Also, if you hear a house lizard or a gecko making noises behind you when you are about to leave the house, consider staying in for the day because this symbolizes a warning sign that something bad is coming your way (5).
So, if you happen to encounter any of these signs, be extra careful on that day to avoid any bad luck.
9. Facial Cues
Like in many other Asian countries, ‘physiognomy’ is a common belief among Thai people. If a person has a mole on the lower lips, they are lousy and cannot be trusted with secrets.
Birthmarks signify that the person is an old soul and has had a previous life, while those born without marks have new souls.
And all thanks to the fictional character, ‘Khun Chang,’ from one of the most famous works in Thai literature called ‘Khun Chang Khun Phaeng,’ bald people are considered flirty and sneaky as a stereotype (9).
10. Pregnancy Rules
Aside from the usual pregnancy rules made by OBGYN doctors, there are also some traditional rules that pregnant women should follow.
The first belief is that pregnant women should not attend funerals as the spirit of the dead and other evil beings from the cemeteries will disturb the baby in the womb.
Also, pregnant women should not watch another pregnant woman giving birth as this will cause difficult birth for the one watching.
Other pregnancy beliefs also include pregnant women not sitting at the stairways as that might cause obstructed birth, and also not burying anything in the soil during the pregnancy period as it is believed to cause difficult childbirth (10).
Myths Behind Thai Festivals
Other than these superstitions, most of the festivals in Thailand are also based on religious beliefs.
As a country full of festivals all year round, here are two of the most significant festivals in Thailand and the beliefs behind each celebration.
The country’s most famous festival, Songkran, or the Thai New Year festival, is usually celebrated around the second week of April. The beliefs and traditions behind this festival are that water symbolizes ‘purity’- pouring fragrant water over Buddha images will bring blessings for the new year.
Likewise, by pouring water over one another, the sins from the previous year will be “washed away” with the water, and more blessings will come in the new year.
Most of the Buddhist temples around the country will hold special events and activities during the festival period. It is a tradition among the local Buddhist people to visit the temples, pour water over Buddha images, and build sand pagodas to increase their good karma for the new year (11).
Loy Krathong Festival:
Loy Krathong is another famous festival in Thailand and is mainly known as the ‘Lights Festival’ as candles and lanterns are used to celebrate this festival. The Loy Krathong festival is celebrated to respect the Goddess of Water and the Buddha. This annual festival is usually celebrated on the 12th full moon day of the Thai Lunar Calendar.
During the evening of the festival day, local people gather around the lakes, rivers, and canals to release lotus-shaped rafts and candles into the water as a way of showing their gratitude towards the Goddess of Water. People ask for forgiveness if they have used too much water or contaminated it during the year.
Also, it is a belief among the Thai Buddhists that by releasing the floating candles and rafts into the water, the negativity from the previous year will also be gone into the flowing water, leaving them with good luck for the next year (12).
As one may have noticed, many of these superstitions and beliefs are based on Buddhism, ghosts, and ancient traditions. And as weird or outdated as they might sound in today’s age with advanced technology and science, many Thai people still practice these beliefs, and they even affect consumers and the business decisions of local people (13).
Therefore, it is helpful to know these beliefs and understand the origins of each, whether you are a tourist looking to avoid any bad luck during your stay or an expat who is doing business with the local people.
1. Petpailin Kirdsaeng. 13 Scary Thai Superstitions Locals Believe In And What They Actually Mean. The Smart Local. [Online] October 30, 2020. https://thesmartlocal.com/thailand/thai-superstitions-explained/.
2. Thakur, Shymli. Superstition In Thailand. Goodluck Symbols. [Online] https://goodlucksymbols.com/superstition-in-thailand/#25-1-no-singing-single-ladies/.
3. Thailand Life. Our Thai Baby Is Very Very Ugly. Thailand Life. [Online] https://thailandlife.info/our-thai-baby-is-very-very-ugly/.
4. Follow Me Bike Tours Co. Ltd. Discovering Bangkok – The Colours Of Thailand. Follow Me Bike Tour. [Online] https://www.followmebiketour.com/discovering-bangkok/discovering-bangkok-the-colours-of-thailand-2/.
5. Iona Proebst. 10 Curious Superstitions You’ll Find In Thailand. Culture Trip. [Online] October 11, 2017. https://theculturetrip.com/asia/thailand/articles/10-curious-superstitions-youll-find-in-thailand/.
6. IMDb. Pee Mak. IMDb. [Online] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2776344/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt/.
7. Sarah Williams. Why Does Thailand Hate Monitor Lizards? Culture Trip. [Online] May 19, 2018. https://theculturetrip.com/asia/thailand/articles/why-does-thailand-hate-monitor-lizards/.
8. Prapaporn Jitmaneeyaphan. The Cutting Truth: Why You Can’t Cut Your Hair On A Wednesday. The Phuket News. [Online] September 6, 2013. https://www.thephuketnews.com/the-cutting-truth-why-you-cant-cut-your-hair-on-a-wednesday-41739.php/.
9. Sakaowan, Prae and Ruiz, Todd. 60 Thai Superstitious Dos and Don’ts For Your Convenience. Coconuts. [Online] February 6, 2014. https://coconuts.co/bangkok/news/60-thai-superstitious-dos-and-donts-your-convenience/.
10. Nick. TRADITION THAI CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS PREGNANCY, BIRTH AND THE EARLY DAYS OF THE NEWBORN. Hua Hin Today. [Online] December 17, 2013. https://www.huahintoday.com/thailand-news/tradition-thai-customs-beliefs-pregnancy-birth-early-days-newborn/.
11. Nattakan . Unique Thai Festivals And Traditions. Expique. [Online] January 19, 2021. https://www.expique.com/article/unique-thai-festivals-and-traditions/.
12. Cindy. What Is Loy Krathong Festival? All You Need to Know. Asia Highlights. [Online] November 24, 2021. https://www.asiahighlights.com/thailand/loy-krathong-festival/.
13. Thai PBS World. Superstitious Beliefs Play A Crucial Role In Thai Consumers And Business Decisions. Thai PBS World. [Online] September 29, 2019. https://www.thaipbsworld.com/superstitious-beliefs-play-a-crucial-role-in-thai-consumers-and-business-decisions/.