Songkran Festival – The Thai New Year

Songkran Festival – The Thai New Year


I like January because there is a continuation of another long New Year holiday after the end of the earlier long Christmas holiday. I also like February because there is a long Chinese New Year holiday and the sweet Valentine day. Then come April that I like too for it is Songkran Festival or Thai New Year.


Songkran is the Thai New Year, a time for the family members to reunite and spend some precious time together. During this time, workers who come from the provinces to work in the capital city of Bangkok metropolis will return home to celebrate. The millions worker will take away with them traffic jam and pollution. Therefore the bustling town will be deserted leaving Bangkok a nice and quiet place to live for a few days.


Songkran Festival falls on April 13th – 15th each year. This year (2008), the auspicious day will be on Sunday – Tuesday. Holidays will start from Saturday 12th to end on Thursday 16th, or a total of five days. There will be celebration throughout the Kingdom.


The term “Songkran” is Thai from the original Sanskrit language which means “Transfer”, “Movement”, or ”Changing position”. This is because it is the time the Sun changes it’s zodiac position from the twelfth sign of Zodiac Pisces to the first sign of Zodiac Aries, hence a New Solar Year. Although the Thai people officially changed the New Year to January 1 in 1940 to coincide with the Western business world, the traditional Songkran Festival is still celebrated as a national holiday.  


The first Songkran day will be on Sunday April 13th, which is "Sang Karn Long Day" or the passing day of the old year. On this day people will clean their home, their bodies and wear new cloths.


The next day will be Monday April 14th, called "Nao Day" or "Da Day" which means the preparation of various auspicious ceremonies. Food and basic necessities will be prepared on this day to offer to monks and give to friends and relatives on the New Year day.


The big day will be on Tuesday April 15th, called "Maha (Major) Songkran Day" which means the great important day of New Year. Thai starts New Year day early in the morning with alms offerings to monks, sermon attendance in the temple and spring blessing from the monks. Traditional Thai would do merit by bringing sand to the Wat (Temple) for making Sand-Chedi (Pagoda) during the Songkran festival. Today, Thai will simply releases birds and fish in merit making.


In the afternoon, after performing a bathing rite for Buddha images and the monks, young people pour scented water into the hands of elders and parents as a mark of respect. They will also seek the blessing from the elders. Then after, people will celebrate Songkran by splashing water player fully on each other in "water wars."  Everyone gets soaking wet and since it is the hottest season of the year (temperatures can rise to over 100°F or 40°C on some days), the custom is quite refreshing. It is also a great fun.


Thai people celebrate this festival with water as people believe that water will wash away past sins, consequently, the term “Water Festival”. Some choose to follow an old belief that the Nagas or mythical serpents brought on rain by spouting water from the seas. The more they spouted, the more rain there would be. So, one might believe that the Songkran customs of throwing water is actually a rain-making idea.


Some refers the Songkran Festival to the Holi festival in India which shares some similarities in celebration at around the same time. Some trace it back to the pre-Buddhist rituals of spring festivals where the throwing of water was meant as a symbol of luck to bring good rain for the crops. There are also many other fairy tale claims as to the origin of Songkran.


In reality, "Water-Throwing Festival" celebrated in the same manner in Yunnan Province of China over a thousand years ago long before the Thai arrived in Thailand. In their ancestral homeland today, Songkran is still celebrated by the Yunnan Thai. Other branches of Thai such as the Thai-Yai Laos, Burmese – Shan, and the Vietnamese Thai Dam are all celebrating this festival with water in a similar fashion on the same day.


Today, Songkran is almost a feature of fun and water-throwing rather than on the festival’s spiritual and religious aspects. This has sometimes prompted complaints from various sectors in the society. In recent years there have been calls to moderate the way we celebrate Songkran with an aim to reduce the too many alcohol-related road accidents. It also hopes to lower the injuries rate attributed to lunatic behaviors such as throwing water in the face of traveling motorcyclists causing them to fall.


Notwithstanding, I still like April because there is Songkran Festival or Thai New Year. This means long holiday and a lot of fun.