Songrkan (Thai New Year) is celebrated every year from April 13 to April 15. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water. People roam the streets with containers of water or water guns, or post themselves at the side of roads with a garden hose and drench each other and passersby. This, however, was not always the main activity of this festival. Songkran was traditionally a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends and neighbors.
Besides the throwing of water, people celebrating Songkran may also go to a wat (Buddhist monastery) to pray and give food to monks. They may also cleanse Buddha images from household shrines as well as Buddha images at monasteries by gently pouring water mixed with a Thai fragrance over them. It is believed that doing this will bring good luck and prosperity for the New Year.
In many cities, such as Chiang Mai, the Buddha images from all of the city’s important monasteries are paraded through the streets so that people can toss water at them, ritually ‘bathing’ the images, as they pass by on ornately decorated floats. In northern Thailand, people may carry handfuls of sand to their neighborhood monastery in order to recompense the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the rest of the year. The sand is then sculpted into stupa-shaped piles and decorated with colorful flags.
WHEN: Annually, April 13 – 15
WHERE: Thailand (throughout, but in Chiang Mai it is particularly enthusiastic)
This article is part of an ongoing series of posts highlighting significant festivals throughout the world, typically held during limited periods of time during the year. The series will identify and profile a select number of world festivals for nomination, ultimately selecting 15 worthy of the title “Top 15 Greatest World Festival”.