Songkran – traditional Thai New Year, Thailand

Songkran is a famous festival in Thailand that marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year. The festival generally celebrated on the thirteenth of April every year, but the holiday period extends from the fourteenth to the fifteenth of April.

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Origins and Significance of Songkran

The name Songkran has derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Sankranti,’ which translates to ‘astrological passage,’ meaning transformation or change.

The celebration covers a period of a few days, with each day having assigned for specific activities.

Festivities of Songkran

The first day of the festival has a traditional term as the national elderly day, and it is on this day that you can see the ‘Rod Nam Dum Hua’ custom performance. In this custom, the young people pour rose and jasmine-scented water into the palms or feet of parents and the elderly to show their humility and seek their blessings.

The second day has dedicated to the families and is famous as National Family day. Appreciation of family is an integral part of the festival, with people visiting their hometowns to spend time with other or older relatives. Children also offer flower garlands to their parents on this day and receive blessings in return.

People also use this as an opportunity to clean the house for the upcoming year.

Manu Buddhists visit temples where the ‘Bathing of the Buddha statues’ takes place. This religious routine has considered very significantly to the celebrations. Scented water has poured over the statues or images of Buddha and on the hands of Buddhist monks as a sign of respect. Even the pictures of Buddha in people’s homes or shops are a part of this ritual. Another ritual that the Buddhists follow is the building of Sand chedis (sandcastles that resemble Buddhist temples)

Being a new year of sorts, in many parts of Thailand, the festival is celebrated with grand processions.

There are also beauty contests, food fairs, boat races, educational games, and fireworks displays that take place on this day.

The Water Festival

At some point, this new year celebration integrated with the Water Festival. The Thai people believe that water is spiritually purifying and cleanses one of any bad luck or grievances while welcoming in blessings and fortune.

The festival originated with locals collecting water that had been poured over Buddha statues for cleansing. This water was then used to bless village elders and family members. Since then, Songkran has developed into a water fight occurring in April, coinciding with the hottest month of the year.

Crowds of people roam around with buckets filled with water or water pistols and soaking anyone in the vicinity. No one, apart from Monks, nuns, and the elderly are exempt from this tradition.

The streets are lined with stalls that sell water guns as well as mixing buckets of clay. This clay is often smeared on people’s faces. It is said that this smearing of clay faces a practice that mirrors the act of monks blessing objects. While monks generally use chalk, children seem to prefer earth, which is far messier.

This water festival is accommodative of both locals and foreigners, and one can often find the travelers engaged in a water fight with the locals. Children, especially approach foreigners, with clay to smear it on their faces and wish them for the new year.

Also read, HALLOWEEN

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