Sawatdee Pee Mai! Or should I say ‘Happy Songkran!’ or even ‘Happy Thai New Year!’. However you say it, people will reply with excitement. Songkran Festival (เทศกาลสงกรานต์) is the name given to the Thai new year.
The festival lasts from a few days to sometimes a week. The holiday differs across the different regions of Thailand. Generally, it takes place in mid-April time.
I am sure many people have heard of this famous holiday. It makes for a very memorable experience. For those who want to know more or are preparing to go, here is a look at everything you need to know about Songkran including a glimpse of its history and how it is celebrated.
What is Songkran?
Songkran is the name given to the Thai new year, one of the many new years celebrations across the world. Like Tet in Vietnam and the Lunar Festival in China, it is celebrating the beginning of a new year based on their calendar. Songkran was said to have begun upon the death of the Thai deity of good fortune. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit language, where it meant to pass or move into.
This holiday is actually celebrated in other countries too – not just Thailand. Laos, for example, also celebrate a similar holiday. Some parts of Malaysia also join in, especially near the border with Thailand. Even some groups in India celebrate a similar holiday around the same time.
When is Songkran?
For Songkran, it uses the solar calendar and the change of the zodiac to determine the dates. These days however, it is set to take place each year from the 12th-14th of April, with the 13th being the main day of Songkran. In places like Pattaya however, they like to party hard. There, it generally lasts a whole week.
The true ‘new year’ in Thailand actually takes place on the 1st of January, like in the West. Songkran can now be seen as the ‘traditional’ new year, though many celebrate both as an important occasion.
How is Songkran celebrated?
The Thai new year celebrations has been given the nickname ‘the water festival’ for reasons anyone who has visited during the holidays will understand. If you are visiting Chiang Mai, you can read this to see what you can expect. Taking place during some of the hottest days of the year, many people celebrate by splashing water at others. Whether using a bucket, watergun or bottle of water, people go out to the streets during the day and splash each other. It is actually quite refreshing in the heat. Just make sure you buy a waterproof cover for your phone and money. You should avoid wearing your best clothes and shoes too. It is better to be safe than sorry!
Of course, there is a lot more that goes on than just the water fights. In the morning, merit-making takes place. Many people will visit Buddhist temples and offer food and other items to the monks. Water still plays a role here, with some people pouring water onto the statues. This, along with splashing others, is meant to represent purification. It symbolizes washing away bad luck. Some also say that the use of water will help to promote plenty of rain over the coming year.
Chalk is also a common element during Songkran. Much like monks use chalk to mark blessings, people smear chalk over others as a way to bless them. It is not uncommon to see people walking around with their face covered in chalk during the festival.
The Joy of the Holidays
Songkran is not only a time of purification and rebirth, but also a time for fun and relaxing. The mixture of traditional celebrations with the more modern activities, it is a busy time of year – and a great time to visit Thailand.
However, you should still be respectful of others and think before you splash someone who isn’t holding a water gun or who is just going about their day. They may be carrying an expensive laptop or equipment which you will likely end up paying for. Also, be wary that traffic and crime increase over these holidays, so please stay safe. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy your Songkran. Suk san wan song kran! (สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์ / Happy Songkran day!).
Think you are ready to take part in Songkran? Prepare for the new year by learning Thai using the Ling Thai app. It will help you learn the important words and phrases that will make your stay easier and more enjoyable.