Amazing Thailand, Festival Songkran
(By Crystal Lin)
This is the festival of the most happiness for Thai people. The Songkran festival takes place on April 13 – 15 and represents the tradition of Thai New Year. The word Songkran comes from Sanskrit and means to pass or to move into. And the Grand Songkran Festival which falls in the zodiac sign of Aries indicates the new era of the Thai New Year. Due to an ancient Indian belief, the Grand Songkran Festival is most appropriate to be the Thai New Year because of the timing of the best season known as the spring of India comes right after the cold season of winter. There are other aspects supporting this belief such as blooming flowers, the fresh atmosphere of nature and the livelihood of all living creatures. During the long holiday, many people living in the cities go back home to celebrate with their families. It is a time of refreshing fun during the hottest part of the year.
Songkran has traditionally been celebrated as the New Year for many centuries. It is the traditional start of the Buddhist New Year as well as the end of the dry season. This festival is a ritual washing of Buddha images and bathing. It has evolved in to a loud, boisterous and fun festival that features water throwing in the streets. The most famous Songkran celebrations are still in the northern city of Chiang Mai. The celebration lasts for six days or longer. It has also become a party for foreigners and an additional reason for many to visit Thailand for immersion in another culture.
During Songkran, you’ll want to pour some Thai scented water on a Buddha image and elders, experience the cultural performances and traditions in the Northern style as well as enjoy various foods along the streets.
The most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water. However, Songkran is traditionally a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends, neighbors, and monks. Besides the throwing of water, people celebrating Songkran as a Buddhist festival may also go to a wat (Buddhist monastery) to pray and give food to monks. They may also cleanse Buddha images from household shrines as well as Buddha images at monasteries by gently pouring water mixed with a Thai fragrance over them. Thai people believe that doing this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.
The New Year resolution for most Thai people is to get rid of bad habits. The water 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. Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal. Besides washing household Buddha images, many Thai people also take this opportunity to give their home a thorough cleaning.
Nowadays, the emphasis is on fun and water-throwing rather than on the festival’s spiritual and religious aspects. The holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 100°F or 40°C on some days). This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.
Are you ready for a Songkran festival?
Thailand has traditional fairs and festivals all year round. You should make sure to join in the Songkran festival at least once in a lifetime!