You are walking down the streets of Chiang Mai or Bangkok on a sweltering hot April day when all of a sudden a group of young people run by with water balloons and super-soakers – drenching you with cool water! What’s going on? It’s the Songkran Festival!
This festival is celebrated during the Thai New Year which begins on the 13th of April. Along with the traditional Thai New Year celebrations, the major event is the throwing of water on others. Thais will roam the streets with large containers of water or water guns – soaking everyone indiscriminately. Everyone – even adults – reverts back to a childish state as they playfully throw water at each other. Another popular tradition is to use beige coloured talc, which is mixed with water to make a paste and smeared on the faces of others in order to impart a blessing for the New Year.
The throwing of the water during Songkran represents cleansing and renewal and it is a way to pay respect to people. Also, it is a great way to relieve the oppressive April heat – as the temperatures can be more than 40 degrees Celsius in Thailand at this time of year.
Other New Year Celebrations
Of course, the throwing of water isn’t the only part of the Songkran Festival. This is also traditionally a time when people visit their families and pay respect to their elders – including monks and neighbours.
Those who celebrate Songkran as a religious Buddhit festival will go on a monastery to pray. Also, they will take this time to cleanse the Buddha images in their household shrines by pouring water mixed with Thai fragrance over them. It is thought that this will bring good luck and prosperity in the New Year.
Tips for Surviving Songkran
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are visiting Thailand during this festival:
- First of all, you need to get used to the fact that you will get wet during this celebration. Accept this truth and just go along with the festivities.
- Find some way of protecting your camera from the water – or buy a waterproof camera for your Songkran photos.
- When you go out walking, avoid carrying electronics and valuables in your pockets, because if you get soaked unexpectedly they can be destroyed.
- To say “Happy New Year”, you can say “Sawasdee Pee Mai!”
- You can spray the drivers of motorbikes, but be careful not to spray them in the eyes as this becomes dangerous when they are driving.
- Be considerate. For example, if someone is eating then you shouldn’t totally soak their food.
- The locals will sometimes put food colouring in the water, so don’t wear your favourite or most expensive clothes as they can stain.
The final and most important tip is to join in the fun! Get yourself a water gun and start spraying every person you see!
Have you been to the Songkran Festival in Thailand? What were your experiences? Let us know in the comments below.