Songkran Water Festival is one of the most important public holidays in Thailand, not only for locals welcoming the New Year but also for visitors who want to immerse themselves in Thai culture. We’ve curated the ultimate guide to celebrating Songkran, so read on and get ready to get wet.
Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word meaning to pass on; it refers to the week where the sun changes position in the zodiac. The tradition started from villagers pouring water over statues of Buddha to mark the New Year, and it progressed to villagers greeting each with a gentle splash of water in order cleanse bad luck and symbolise a fresh start. Nowadays, traditional water pouring ceremonies take place at home while large-scale water fights take over main streets in cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. While Thais celebrate Songkran, the Burmese and Laotians also have water festivals of their own during this time.
Songkran takes place every year from 13 to 15 April.
Even though water fights provide a public spectacle, for many Thais, Songkran is also all about family. Locals generally take the opportunity to travel home and be with loved ones, and younger members of the family might host an intimate ceremony called “Rod Nam Dam Hua Phu Yai”, where they offer cleansing water to their elders. It is a chance for youngsters to ask their parents for forgiveness for anything they did wrong in the past year, and for parents to offer their blessings in return. Some Thais also visit temples to make merit and wish for a good year to come.
Water is used in many traditional Thai ceremonies for its cleansing and purifying properties. Water is believed to wash away bad luck and ward off bad spirits, so you can get a fresh start for the New Year.
If you’re into the traditional side of things, there are lots of ways to celebrate Songkran Water Festival. This might mean visiting various temples to make merit and wish for good luck for the year ahead or even participating in a meditation session. Some temples offer a chance for you to pour water over a statue of the Buddha or monks as a symbol of cleansing and a new beginning. If you want to experience Songkran through the eye of young Bangkokians, you can also participate in many street water fights all over Bangkok, including tourist hot spots like Khao San Road and Silom Road. Many Thai party organisers also use the holiday to stage music festivals. Just make sure to bring a waterproof bag and perhaps even some goggles as some parties can be pretty full-on!