Songkran has become Thailand’s iconic water fight festival, but this year Thai New Year is being celebrated in a more traditional fashion.
Over the years Songkran Festival has become one of the top bucket list worthy festivals around the world. Held annually April 13-15, Songkran is a time to escape the heat during one of Thailand’s hottest months. Thais and foreigners alike take to the streets to throw water on each other in a nationwide playful water fight. If you aren’t armed with a super soaker and ready to get wet before you step out the door, you’re doing it wrong. 🙂
No matter where you find yourself in Thailand during those three days, from small towns to large cities everyone is participating! There are water guns, buckets of water, hoses, misters, even the fire department would get in on it and blast off water cannons in Bangkok! When walking around people would come up and (usually) politely paint your face with a wet powder type of clay.
But what is Songkran actually celebrating? Why the water? And why the powder?
The word “songkran” is derived from ancient Sanskrit and translates to something like enter or pass into. it is known as the Thai New Year but is actually celebrated across many counties in SE Asia. The water and the powder are symbolic of cleansing, protection, and blessings.
Songkran Festival has lately become a globally known festival of packed streets, fun and playful mayhem. However this year, due to living through a global pandemic, the festivities have quieted and the celebrations bear more resemblance to its historic roots.
On the first day of Songkran most Thais will clean their homes and public spaces. Similar to common western beliefs, cleaning their living space feels like cleansing your area and starting the new year off with a fresh and clean start. Unlike western practices, however, they will also pour scented water over the torso and neck of sacred Buddha statues in temples and at home.
The second day Thais take some time preparing and presenting the monks and temples with food and other offerings. It is also a day dedicated to family and paying respect to your elders. Families will travel home to be together during this holiday time, and on the 14th of April young people will pay respect by washing the feet of their parents or elders with rose and jasmine scented water. The parents will thank their children by giving them a floral garland and blessing them for the new year. During this day some families will release birds or fish back into nature as a way of creating good karma.
On the final (official) day of Songkran, April 15th, families will visit their local temple and once again give food and offerings such as robes and incense to the monks, who in return will pray and bless them.
Songkran has traditionally been a celebration of new beginnings and blessings with family and less of a wild party scene. 2020 and 2021 have been years of more traditional celebrations.
It is nice to scale back and remember what is important, and hopefully in the future Songkran party can once again return but there will be more recognition and education of the meanings and traditional practices, something Thais are well versed in but foreigners coming to visit are usually unaware of.