Each year, Asalha Puja day would be held the day before the entering of the Rains Retreat. Asalha Puja (also known as Asalha Bucha) is a public holiday in Thailand and usually falls in the full moon of the month of July.
The Buddhist hold this day in special significance because it is the day where the Buddha preached the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta (Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma) to the 5 ascetics. It was the day where the first Sangha was formed, completing the Triple Gem. After Asalha Puja, monks would enter the Rains Retreat which would last about 3 months.
After the Rains Retreat is over, there would be a Kathina ceremony where lay people would offer robes and requisities to the temple. There is a fixed date (usually in October) that marks the end of the rains retreat (ouk pansa).
Kathina ceremony is held after the end of rains retreat. The Kathina ceremony need to be held within one month of the ouk pangsa date. However, different temples would have a different date and it is usually held on a weekend. Devotees would purchase items such as monks robes, requisites, daily use items and donations.
Reason why offering on Kathina day is significant is because on that there, the offering is make as a whole to the entire members of the monks. All the monks would be present to accept and bless the devotees on that day. The offering is also done after Rains Retreat where they have intentified on their practice during the duration.
Where to buy Kathina items for donations
Items such as robes and monks requisites can be bought from specialty shops that sells Buddhist and monks requisites which is widely available all over Thailand. You can find a number of these shops located near temples.
I have also seen ready-made items being sold in Makro and Tesco Lotus:
Each temple would have a different set up for Kathina. Aside from Visakha Bucha (Wesak Day), Kathina Day is also a day where temples would be filled with devotees.
Below is the Kathina ceremony in a temple in Samut Sakhon.
There is a section, similar to a stage where items that are offered are being placed while awaiting the blessing ceremony. You can also see money trees, decorations where notes can be clipped on it.
Devotees or visitors who wish to donate to help in temple expenses and living expenses of the monastics can make the aspiration before placing their offerings at this area.
It is good to dedicate the merits from the offerings to our ancestors, parents, children, guardian beings and kammic debtors as well as people who come to your mind. May they rejoice in the merits of this offering.
Once the ceremony commerce, devotees would hold a white thread which is linked from the monks. As the monks chant blessings and transferance of merits, devotees would focus their mind and transfer merits to their ancestors, families and any intented receipients.
The kindness and generosity of Thai people
During Kathina day, you would find a section where food stalls are being set up. These are mostly by devotees, many who make the time to come to prepare and offer food free of charge to visitors.
Above: Chicken rice (kao man kai) is offered free.
Above: fried sausages and fish balls.
There are also a lot of stalls that operate by volunteers who provides food to visitors. Many have their own business which they close for the duration when they are participating in the event.
Kathina is a wonderful day of giving and receiving. It is truly touching to receive blessings from monks and the kind generosity of the laity. Sadhu sadhu.