Songkran festival is an event that rings in the Thai New Year in Thailand on April 13 to 15. The date of the festival was different each year as it was originally set by the astrological calculation. However, it is a set date now on April 13th lasting until the 15th with a duration of 3 days. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’. Chiang Mai, the northern city in Thailand is known for its long and famous festivals. Not only do families come back home to say their greetings and to clean their house, but families also have a special and surprising way of celebrating the festival in Thailand!
This is a time when families return home to celebrate Songkran together and greet their elders by saying “sawatdi pi mai” which means Happy New Year. After wishing everyone a happy new year, they start preparing buckets of water mixed with a Thai fragrance to bring to a wat.
A wat is a Buddhist monastery where Thai families visit to pray and give food to the monks. After praying, they would wipe the Buddha images with their prepared fragrant water inside the monastery. Thai families do not throw away this water but save it to bring back home to clean their Buddha images and other household items.
By using the collected fragrant water that was wiped and poured onto the Buddha images, it will bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year as the water is blessed. Besides using this blessed water to clean the house, families pour the water onto elder’s shoulders to wish them good health and luck in the New Year.
The act of pouring blessed water onto people was a way to pay respect. However, the younger Thai generations do it a little differently nowadays. This traditional act has since been evolved to where young Thai people would prepare a hose and gather buckets of ice cold water on the streets to splash it onto each other and strangers they see on the streets. Some would even get splashed with water as they are passing on their bikes and motorcycles!
Today, this tradition has become another way to have fun during April 13th to 15th in Thailand. As the temperatures quickly climb to the high 90’s in April, many Thai youngsters enjoy this mischievous act of pouring cold water on passersby and foreigners. If you happen to visit Thailand in April, do not be surprised if you are completely drenched the minute you walk onto the streets! This is a way for the Thai people to bless you and wish you a lovely Songkran!
Submitted by Irene Lam