Hundreds of people stood at the front of the stage on Sanam Luang for the candle lighting ceremony to honor Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, on His Majesty's 88th birthday. Tens of thousands of people crowded onto Sanam Luang for the ceremony.
December 5 is probably the biggest secular holiday in Thailand. It's the birthday of Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, and is also celebrated as Father's Day.
It's hard to explain the King's importance to a non-Thai, especially an American because Americans have no experience with a monarchy. The King is, by far, the most revered person in Thailand. He's 88 years old and has reigned since 1946, almost 70 years. He is the longest serving Monarch currently living in the world and longest serving Thai King in history.
A woman prays for the King at Siriraj Hospital. The King, whose health is fading, has lived at the hospital for most of the last six years. Hundreds of people came to the hospital this year to pray for His Majesty.
He is the only King most Thais have known and has served as unifying figure for most of his reign. He famously threw open the gates of his residential palace in 1992 to shelter student protestors who were attacked by soldiers. He later called the leader of the protests and the army commander to his palace and the army commander resigned a few months later.
He's an accomplished photographer (he has a camera around his neck in most of the pictures of him) and played saxophone, appearing with Benny Goodman, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and others.
The King was seen as a King of the people, especially during his younger days when he made numerous trips upcountry and to rural Thailand to meet with farmers and rural people. As he's aged and his health has faded he doesn't get out much but that has not dampened the people's reverence for His Majesty. You see his portrait in commercial buildings and homes throughout Thailand.
The candle lighting ceremony for His Majesty at Sanam Luang.
His birthday celebration every year features with a candle lighting ceremony. People sing the King's anthem, light candles and lanterns and the evening concludes with a fireworks display. The King used to make an appearance during his birthday to address the nation. The last one was in 2012, the first year I was here. Hundreds of thousands of people crowded into the streets around the royal throne hall to hear His Majesty.
The crowd this year was a little smaller than it has been in recent years. I'm not sure why that is but it might be because his birthday this year fell on Saturday. Monday is the observed holiday and for a lot of people it meant a long weekend and people left town. Or it might be that because of his health people knew the King wouldn't be making an appearance at any of the events this year. Even though the crowd was smaller, there was no doubting the people's allegiance to their monarch.
There are more photos of the King's Birthday in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.
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