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Songkran Festival
Thailand

Songkran Festival 2018 and 2019

The Songkran Festival is a national holiday in Thailand.

YearDateDayHoliday
201813 Apr to 16 AprFri to MonSongkran Festival
201913 Apr to 16 AprSat to TueSongkran Festival

It marks the beginning of the Thai New Year. The word Songkran is derived from the Sanskrit work samkranti, which means astrological passage. It is a traditional Buddhist festival, and it is celebrated annually between the 13th and 15th of April. This date continues to line up with the Hindu and Buddhist solar calendars; however, Thailand adopted the January 1st New Year in 1940.

Water Festival

The Songkran Festival is also a water festival. It celebrates water as a ritual of washing away negativities from the year before. People celebrating Songkran have a traditional pouring of water that is meant to symbolize washing away back luck and sins from a person’s life. Some people add herbs to the celebration, as well.

As April is the hottest month of the year, the celebration of water is relevant on many levels of the festival. However, Songkran is not always celebrated in the same traditional manner. In big cities, the country takes to the streets. Cities like Bangkok see a host of street parties and friendly fire water fights. The celebrations can last nearly a week in some parts of Thailand.

The most famous street party in Bangkok is called Silom. This party takes place all along a street that is over 3 miles in length. It is a huge party in which thousands of people have water fights with water guns, balloons and any other vessels they can get their hands on. The street is also crowded with vendors selling water guns, toys, food and drinks.

The party happens on two levels because there is a mezzanine level provided by the skywalk hanging above the street. This means that those who would rather watch the water fight than take place in it can do so from a relatively safe distance. However, it is still important to carry anything valuable in a plastic bag because even those on the skywalk can get wet.

Songkran is so widely celebrated in Silom that even the fire department takes part in it. Party goers enjoy dodging the fire trucks that are hidden at each intersection. The fire trucks will sometimes hose down the crowds (this is definitely not a form of crowd control). The temperatures during April are incredibly hot so the cool water is welcomed by the crowds.

As a national holiday, offices and banks are closed during the three-day period. The only businesses that remain open are often the large, Western-style shopping malls. Many people take this as an opportunity to leave their homes and go visit their families. Cities like Bangkok often empty out as communities return to rural areas or hometowns for a family vacation.

However, the loss of the locals is only replaced by the hordes of tourists that descend upon this country during the festival. Songkran is an exciting time to be in Thailand, and it offers vibrant and colourful celebrations that tourists come to enjoy. Tourists can take part in the festival, too, and non-Buddhists are welcome to observe Buddhist New Year traditions.

In addition to traditional water rituals and street parties, there are other key activities that the Thai people participate in during this week. Many will take this time to attend their temple. Some may also participate in an annual spring cleaning of their homes.

National Family Day

The second day of the festival is known as the National Family Day. Since many people spend this holiday with their families, this has special meaning for people in Thailand. On the second day of Songkran, many families rise early and take part in traditional Buddhist rituals. They give alms to Buddhist monks. They also take part in a ritual that is known as ‘Bathing the Buddha image.’ During this ritual, devout followers will pour water over the statues of Buddha in their home and at their local temple.

Songkran is celebrated by almost everyone in Thailand. However, there are rituals that are performed by only devout Buddhists. One such ritual is marking merit. Individuals can participate in making merit when they travel around the country to visit nine sacred temples. The temples that are most frequented include Wat Pho, Wat Suthat Thepphawararam, Wat Arun and Wat Boworn.

Another way of making merit is to bring sand into temple grounds and use it to make sand pagodas. Buddhists believe that during each year, earth is moved away from temples on the soles of believers. Songkran is a time where Buddhists can return the earth to the temples it was taken from. Songkran remains a diverse holiday that is celebrated differently by people across Thailand. Some regions mark the holiday with beauty contests while others encourage more traditional Buddhist practices. Regardless of how it is celebrated, the festival offers three days of fun for visitors and locals alike.