Water. Water. And even more water.
Water plays a major role in the celebration of the Thai New Year, or “Songkran”.
During the celebration, the streets are filled with water guns of various sizes, elephants spraying water and trucks chartering water.
During the party, you can prepare to get wet almost immediately after stepping out the hotel’s front door! And when a bucket of water is poured upon you, a cry echoes as a kind of apology:
“Sah-wah-dee pee mai!”
The saying is to wish you a Happy New Year.
When is Thai New Year celebrated?
Thai New Year is celebrated on 13-15. April 2021.
Like Chinese New Year, Thai New Year means a holiday for Thais, and the celebration is often celebrated for up to a week.
Originally, the Thai New Year fell on slightly different days each year, as the time of the celebration was previously determined on the basis of the lunar calendar, but now April 13 has been chosen as the official start date of the celebration.
The water festival is the biggest celebration of the year in Thailand, and many family businesses and shops keep their doors closed during the New Year celebrations.
What is Songkran?
Songkran is an annual New Year celebration in Thailand.
The Thai New Year celebration has a reputation as the largest water war in the world, but for the Thais, the celebration means much more.
Songkran is the largest folk festival of the year and a Buddhist tradition. Colorful festivities therefore also have important cultural and religious significance, and the good deeds of Buddhism still play a significant role in the celebration.
During the New Year celebration, we say goodbye to the bad memories of the old year and wish the new year and better happiness a welcome. And here the Thais use water!
Songkran is also a family celebration, and many Thais travel back to their homelands to celebrate together with their loved ones.
How is Songkran celebrated?
Songkran is a colorful celebration during which the joy of life of Thais flourishes.
The celebration traditionally begins with the spring cleaning of the home, washing away the misfortune of the previous year and welcoming the new year to a clean home.
The traditions of the first days
The first two days of the New Year celebration are associated with special traditions.
On the first day of Songkran, the elderly are respected. The day is known as Rod Nam Dum Hua (Thai: รดน้ำ ดำหัว), and then children lie on the hands of older people with water to which perfume has been added. By pouring water, young people want to show humility and wish happiness and a good life to older people. In addition, children ask the elderly for blessing while they soak more experienced palms in fragrant water.
The second day is dedicated to the family and is called National Family Day (Thai: ค ครอบครัว แห่ง ชาติ). Today, the most important thing is to spend time with your own family, so most families spend their holidays enjoying each other’s company.
Water festival and the importance of water
Common to almost all the different parts of the Songkran celebration is the water, which at the New Year celebrations marks the cleansing and the beginning of something new.
Water has a very special role to play. During the celebration, water will be sprayed, sprayed and poured on fellow human beings to the extent that Songkran is now known as the world’s largest water war. But while water is a fun part of the celebration, it also has important ritual significance.
In addition to family members, friends and acquaintances, water is also sprayed on people with vent guests. Irrigation with water symbolizes the washing away of all the evil that happened in the previous year and the welcome of the good things that the coming year will bring.
Non-humans also share in the water, as Buddha statues also tend to be watered. Thais lie on Buddha statues with scented water both at home and in temples. This is an integral part of the celebration and is called Song Nam Phra (Thai: สรง น้ำ พระ). During the New Year celebration, Thais strive to visit nine different temples.
What other traditions belong to Songkran?
In addition to many water-related traditions, Songkran includes white paste, white ribbons, and helping monks.
Thais traditionally provide food to monks, which is done in the form of either food offerings or alms. An important part of Songkran is to provide help to those who need it.
It is also customary to tie white threads or ribbons on the wrists of others and at the same time pray for the person around whose wrist the ribbon is tied. In this way, one wishes to wish the person receiving the tape good luck. In addition, Thais massage each other with a white paste designed to keep diseases at bay and symbolize protection against misfortune.
Under Songkran, Thais wear colorful festive attire and crown the “Miss Songkran” of the year while celebrating a wide variety of celebrations across the country.
Songkran is the largest party in Thailand.
Where can you celebrate Thai New Year?
You can attend the New Year celebration almost anywhere in Thailand. For example, Chiang Mai in northern Thailand hosts wild New Year celebrations. In Bangkok, on the other hand, the entire five-kilometer-long Silom Street will be harnessed as a party street. Virtually all over the country, there are countless opportunities to participate in the water festival in full chest.
But keep your reserves! Foreigners are a popular destination for water jets among young Thais, as young people love teasing. So be prepared for the festivities as you attend to get wet.
Songkran is celebrated in April, which is the warmest month of the year. However, Thailand is a large country, so temperatures can vary depending on the location. If you are planning a trip to Thailand around the New Year celebration, you can read more about the climate and the weather here .
The Thai capital has a huge amount to offer during the New Year celebration. The long Silom Street is filled with colors and water. The Thais gathered on the street are equipped with everything possible, which is in no way suitable for spraying water. You can also watch the celebration from above by climbing to the BTS Skywalk viewpoint across the street.
Backpackers ’own street, Khao San Road, is at its wildest during the New Year. You are guaranteed to get wet here, because water flows in streams everywhere and no mercy is given!
If you want to experience a more authentic Songkran celebration, you can head to the Phra Pradaeng district. In an area inhabited by the Thai-Raman community, the festivities are not limited to the water, but here you can also admire dancing, ticket ceremonies and flower parades.
Chiang Mai is perhaps one of the best places to spend Songkran. A week-long celebration is held in the old town of Chiang Mai, and in addition to full water guns, colorful parades and happy people, the city also offers slightly louder festivities. In northern Thailand, New Year’s Eve celebration includes gunpowder! Gunpowder is banging in the sky, and a loud voice is hoped to keep misfortune away.
In northern Thailand, during the Songkran, monks take a bag of sand with them to the temple. The sand symbolizes the dust carried by the monk during the year, and in the temple a fine stupa is formed from it. In honor of the Buddha, the stupas are decorated with flags.
Celebrations elsewhere in Thailand
Songkran is celebrated almost everywhere in Thailand. In smaller cities, you can probably get to experience a more authentic New Year’s Eve celebration that focuses more on the ritual aspects of the celebration than the Water War.
In the city of Kanchanaburi, you can witness the unique Songkran tradition, the procession of beeswax candles. The candlelight procession is a special tradition in the Kanchanaburi region, and the city also hosts an exhibition on tradition. The procession is the highlight of the entire Songkran celebration in Kanchanaburi.
Want to experience Thailand’s happy water festival in 2020?
If you want to experience the happiest, warmest and wettest celebration in Thailand for yourself, the best time to travel is 13-15. April.
At this time, the festive atmosphere can be felt everywhere!