Songkran is the celebration of the Thai New Year, and takes place between 13th and 16th April each year. The date of Songkran falls on the New Year according to the Thai Lunar calendar and is celebrated as a water festival. In central Thailand, the festival is simply called Songkran, in the Northeast however it is called Bun Rot Nam and in the South, Wan Wang – meaning “Free Day”.
As Thailand is a Buddhist country, celebrations include attending the Wat (Buddhist temple) to pray to the Buddha and give food to the monks, and at home, cleansing the Buddha by gently pouring water on shrines and images of him. This ritual, which is usually done with close friends and family members, is believed to bring luck and prosperity in the New Year. Younger family members also ask for blessings from older generations by carefully pouring water into the palms of their hands.
Water is a fundamental part of Songkran, and is used to wash off misfortunes. People also fill the streets to throw water at images of Buddha from important monasteries. This is symbolic of “bathing” the images, which are transported through the streets on decorated floats.
After it has been poured over the Buddhas, the water is used for cleansing and as “blessed” water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it over them. Strangers on holiday may be unexpectedly doused with water as a pleasant relief from the oppressive heat – April being the hottest month in Thailand when temperatures can rise to over 40°C on some days. This can then culminate in water fights and even passing vehicles like Tuk Tuks get drenched with water.
Some Thai people, as in Western culture, make New Year’s resolutions because Songkran is all about cleansing and renewal. In northern Thailand, in order to replace the dirt that they have worn away with their feet over the rest of the year, people carry handfuls of sand to their neighbourhood monastery and sculpt stupa-shaped piles which they then decorate with colourful flags
So, สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์” (suk san wan songkran) – “Happy Songkran Day” everyone!