The Thai Songkran festival is held annually from April 13 to 15, which marks the Thai New Year. This festival takes place across Thailand and around the world where there is Thai community. In other places in Thailand, such as the northern city of Chang Mai, the celebration takes a whole week. Other than visiting local temples, many people also flock to the streets to enjoy numerous fun activities such as water fights. Throwing water is a tradition that is believed to wash away bad luck.
Songkran is a Buddhist festival and is considered as one of the most important Thai holidays. Many go back to their homes to be with family for this fun occasion.
The word “Songkran” comes from saṃkrānti, a Sanskrit word which means “astrological passage”, meaning change or transformation. This word was derived from Makar Sankranti, a Hindu harvest festival that is celebrated in January in India, marking the arrival of spring. Songkran coincides with numerous New Year festivals that are celebrated across South and Southeast Asia. Songkran marks the end of the dry season, as April is known to be Thailand’s hottest month.
Traditions for the Songkran celebration
Songkran is a festival where numerous Thai traditions are celebrated. Mornings start with making merits, which is an important part of Thai Buddhism belief. Merit making means doing good deeds as mentioned in the religious doctrine. During Songkran, most people visit local temples to give food to Buddhist monks.
Performing water pouring on Buddha statues is also believed to be a ritual that washes away sins and bad luck. Some will also take the time to completely clean Buddhist houses believing that this will bring about prosperity. Many younger people also pour water over the palms of elders’ hands, symbolising respect. During Songkran festival, it is also important to pay reverence to ancestors.
From traditional to modern celebrations
These days, Songkran is also celebrated in many other ways. Mostly young people go out on the streets to enjoy water fights. In Thailand, most major streets are closed to traffic where people enjoy water splashing. For three days, the whole country is turned into a fun water “war-zone” and everyone participates. Children with huge water guns and adults with heavy pails of water splash at anyone within reach.
Many other activities also take place such as parades, beauty pageants such as “Miss Songkran”, concerts, and other fun events take place.
Embracing the culture of wishing others well, praying for better days, and having fun are some of the greatest parts of the Songkran festival.