Thais are a very superstitious people and have many deeply held beliefs. Some of these revolve around colours and drive habits which, though developed historically, in many cases are still evident today. In fact there are a wide range of objects and situations which are commonly thought to be either good luck or bad luck depending on the meaning of the colours involved.
The days of the week are the best example of this. In Thailand, unlike other countries, each day of the week has its own colour. Below is a list of these associations;
Sunday - Red
Monday - Yellow.
Tuesday - Pink
Wednesday - Green
Thursday - Orange
Friday - Blue
Saturday - Purple
The most famous of these “day” colours is Monday. Many people choose to wear yellow on a Monday as a celebration of the King who was born on this day and is revered throughout the country. Tourists who visit Thailand may notice that it is commonplace to wear yellow on Mondays in order to celebrate the King’s birthday. If you pay close attention you may also notice that blue is worn on a Friday is to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. These colour/day association derive from the birthdays of the royal family but it doesn’t stop there.
Each day has its colour and Thais believe that wearing the right colour on the right day will bring them luck. However, as this is quite a difficult belief to put into practice most locals do not apply it strictly. Even so, some people may carry a small piece of clothing, like a tie or a handkerchief, which is the correct colour. And, when it comes to their own birthday, it becomes more serious. Many people consider the colour of the day they were born to be their lucky colour in life.
Some colours also have additional meanings. The famous golf player Tiger Woods, whose mother is Thai, is known for wearing a red shirt on championship days. Though Woods claims he wears the shirt only because his mother gave it to him, in the Thai colour belief system, red is the colour of action.
Tiger Woods wearing a red shirt, the colour of action
In recent years, the political protests have created another twist. Known as the “red shirts” the anti-government groups appropriated the colour red whereas the pro-government groups took the colour yellow (“yellow shirts”). Therefore, and in order to avoid controversy, the King of Thailand decided to wear pink instead of yellow at a recent coronation thereby preserving his impartiality. Of course, there are some who say that the King’s lucky colour should not be yellow in the first place. The King was born not in Thailand but in Massachusetts, USA and while his date of birth in the US fell on a Monday, it was actually already Tuesday in Thailand and so his true colour should perhaps be pink.
Some other colours have no day linked to them but still have strong superstitions attached to them. Black, which is a mourning colour around the world, has the same associations in Thailand and is not linked with any particular day. It is traditionally avoided, being reserved for funerals and a colour associated with death and grieving. Nowadays black has become a very fashionable colour to wear among younger Thais and the taboo is being broken but if you were to wear black at a wedding this would still be a major faux pas and you might be accused of bringing bad luck to the occasion.
For those who are interested in this topic and want to know more here’s a deeper examination of what the colours represent from a historical and religious perspective. It is essentially driven by a Hindu belief system related to the supposed formation of the planets under Hinduism:
Sunday = Red: According to historical records, there is mystic belief that Phra Isuan, a high God in the Hindu faith, captured six lions and ground them into powder. He then wrapped the powder with red cloth and sprinkled Nam Amarit or holy water on to the powder and thus created the Sun.
Monday = Yellow: According to Hindu mythology, on this day Phra Isuan captured 14 angels and used his infinite powers to turn them into powder. He then wrapped the powder in a yellow cloth and sprinkled holy water upon the powder creating the Moon.
Tuesday = Pink: Phra Isuan caught eight buffaloes and used his magical powers to turn them into powder, which he wrapped with soft reddish cloth and sprinkled with holy water, thus creating the Planet of Saturday
Wednesday = Green: Green is worn on Wednesday because it is said that Phra Isuan rounded up 17 mystic elephants on this day and turned them into powder which he wrapped with a green leaf. After sprinkling holy water he created the planet of Pluto.
Thursday = Orange: 19 hermits were powdered by Phra Isuan on a Thursday and wrapped in a reddish orange cloth, thus creating the Planet of Mars.
Friday = Light Blue: On this day, Phra Isuan used his powers to turn 21 bullocks into powder, wrapped them with a light blue cloth and sprinkled holy water to create the planet Venus.