Songkran is my favorite festival or holiday here in Thailand. It reminds me of when I was a kid in the US and having water fights it except everyone joins in and it last for several days.
This my favorite holiday also because it is a time for families to come together. This year in Thailand Songkran falls on April 13 thru 15th 2015. I have enjoyed the festival several parts of Thailand, Bangkok, Phuket, and Issan in the villages. The best place I think is away from Bangkok or tourist places. It can get very aggressive with the water. Away from the tourist, Thais are very respectful if you dont want to soaked. The traditional water pouring is meant as a symbol of washing all of the bad away and is sometimes filled with fragrant herbs when celebrated in the traditional manner. It is also common to have baby powder put on your face!
What is Songkran?
Songkran is the occasion for family re-unions, temple visits and annual house cleaning. Many Thais observe the holidays by spending time with families and friends. Traditionally, Thais perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual on the first day of Songkran, which is officially the National Elderly Day. During the ritual, young people would pour fragrant water into the elders’ palms as a gesture of humility and to ask for their blessings.
The second day of Songkran is officially the National Family Day. Families would wake up early and give alms to the monks, then ideally the rest of the day would be spent sharing quality family time together. An important religious ritual on Songkran is ‘Bathing the Buddha image’, in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over Buddha statues both at the temple and at home. More religious Thais would engage themselves in Buddhist ceremonies and merit-making activities throughout the holidays.
Water as Symbolism
Contradictory to what you may have witnessed throughout Songkran, fun-loving Thais don’t just throw water at each other for no good reason (besides having a kick out of seeing other people soaking wet). The real meaning behind the splashes is to symbolically wash off all misfortunes in the past year, thus welcoming the new year with a fresh new start.
Traditionally, Thais would politely pour a bowl of water on members of the family, their close friends and neighbours. As Songkran has taken a more festive note, a bowl becomes a bucket, garden hose and water guns, and the spirit of holiday merriment is shared amongst all town residents and tourists alike.
When is Songkran?
Before Thailand adopted the international New Year’s Day in 1940, Songkran was calculated based on the solar calendar, which varied from one year to the next. Now Songkran in Bangkok is from 13 to 15 April of every year. Depending on where you are in the country, the dates and period of festivities may vary.
Does and Don’ts
- Do give alms and make merit (or just witness the rituals if you are not a Buddhist)
- Do use waterproof bags to protect your valuables
- Do watch your belongings
- Do use public transportation if you are heading to one of Songkran ‘hotspots’, as traffic will be paralysed
- Do try wishing the locals a happy new year in Thai – “Sawasdee Pee Mai!”
- Do smile and have fun
- Do not douse monks, babies or the elderly
- Do not drive when you have been drinking
- Do not throw water with ice or dirty water
- Do not throw water at motorcyclists, to prevent road accidents