If you find yourself in Thailand in early to mid April, make sure to wear clothes that are comfortable when wet! Every year, Thai people ring in their lunar New Year with the Songkran Festival. Street parties, family reunions and friendly water fights are all combined, making Songkran the most colorful and refreshing event.
This may normally sound disconcerting, to walk around the streets full of young people ready to throw a bucket of water or spritz you with a water gun, however in the scorching heat of Thailand summer (where the day’s temperature is normally around 36° C with over 50% humidity), this is actually quite welcomed!
Like many other cultures, Thailand is rich in many beliefs and symbols. The water symbolizes “cleansing” or “rejuvenating.” Natives throw water on each other to wash away the misfortunes and struggles of the previous year, as well as to refresh for the new year.
Deriving from the Sanskrit language, the word Songkran means to pass or to move into or literally "astrological passage." Derived from the ancient Hindu festival of Sankranti, the Grand Songkran Festival is considered to be the most appropriate time for the Thai New Year, due to the onset of the best season (spring) which comes right after the cold season.
As part of the event, families come together to offer prayers and food to the monks, visit Buddhist monasteries and clean their homes, making it inviting for good luck to enter. Younger people pour water with exotic perfume and flowers into the palms of elders, and on the Buddha images to ask for blessing.
The throwing of water originated as a sign of respect, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddha images, and then using this "blessed" water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. The “gently pouring it on the shoulder,” has evolve into Thailand’s modern day water fights.
Songkran is also celebrated in neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, along with other South Asian New Year celebrations (based on the astrological event of the sun beginning its northward journey). Songkran is similar to the Indian festival of Holi, with splashing of water as paints, colored dusts, and fragrances.
If you see other Thais on that day, you can greet them with “sawatdi pi mai” (สวัสดีปีใหม่) aka "Happy New Year” or “suk san wan songkran” (สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์) — meaning "Happy Songkran Day" — since "pi mai" is more often linked with the 1st of January.
Have a look at the Songkran Festival in Thailand video sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Happy Songkran Day to all!
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