Ready to explore the Songkran Festival or the Thai New Year celebration? Songkran is a term derived from Sanskrit संक्रान्ति saṅkrānti meaning ‘to move’ or ‘movement’. The word Songkran from the movement of the sun from one position to another in the zodiac. According to its literal meaning in Sanskrit, a Songkran occurs every month!
If you are to walk the streets of Thailand during Songkran days, don’t be surprised if someone throws water at you with or without your permission. This is how New Year is celebrated throughout Thailand. This annual celebration generally lasts for two days during April every year.
Traditional Ways of Celebrating Songkran or Thai New Year
Just before water throwing became a norm during Songkran, there were other ways in which this festival was celebrated. The first thing Buddhists did during Songkran was pray in a “wat” or temple and give food to the monks. There are also those who cleanse Buddha images with Thai fragrance.
Doing this may bring good luck. Thai fragrance and scented water is usually used to clean the images. There are some cities in which the Buddha image is paraded on the streets, and people can sprinkle water on it. Most Thai people resort to using water guns to ensure they hit the target. In Bangkok, the celebration begins with an official opening ceremony at Wat Pho, one of the biggest Buddhist temples in Thailand. This is where the giant reclining Buddha is located.
Because this is also the hottest time of the year, the idea of the Songkran festival involving bucketloads of water is very welcoming for everyone that attends it.
There is also a ritual in which the elders sit on a chair with a bowl of water mixed with Thai fragrance in front of them. The younger members of the family or the group will then fall in line one by one to pour water on the hands of the elders.
The elder will then say something positive as a wish to the person who poured out the water. As soon as everyone has finished doing the ritual, food is served. If monks are invited to the celebration, they get to eat first before the rest of the congregation. Of course, like other huge holidays such as Christmas, Songkran is a day when sumptuous arrays of traditional Thai dishes flood the country.
Songkran in Chiang Mai
The picturesque city of Chiang Mai in Thailand is famed for hosting the biggest Songkran celebrations world. Water fighting happens throughout the city. If you are near the Ping rivers, canals, and lakes, prepare to get thoroughly soaked! On April 12, you may participate in a Buddhist parade surrounded by shamans and locals.
April 13th – The start of new years is called Song Ngôm (the water flowing to kings). This is usually when you’ll see processions of Buddha statues in the streets. This is also when the biggest water fights happen and is the height of the water festival.
April 14th – This day is called Wan Nao and a New Year. It also marks National Family Day, where all families get to spend time together.
April 15th – This is New Years Day. This day is often called Wanpayawan (‘Bathing Buddha’). There are parties around the city, with constant water fights involving water pistols, concerts with loud music, colorful flags waving around, street food, sand pagodas, and watermelon.
How to Prepare for the Thai New Year Celebrations
If you are planning to celebrate Songkran in Thailand for the first time, there are a few things that you have to remember:
No Gadgets or Cash
Never bring your gadgets with you or a huge amount of cash. You can bring your phone and credit cards, but you need to put them in a plastic case that you can wear using an ID sling. Make sure to properly zip the case. Unless you’re fine with everything getting wet!
Don’t Get Offended if You’re Thrown with Water
You can never say no to people throwing water at you. Whenever and wherever they want to throw water, they will do it. There are even some others who drive all around the city bringing loads of water with them. They will then throw water at anyone on the street. Commuters are not spared at all.
Wear the Right Shoes
Don’t be surprised if it is wet everywhere. As you enter malls or ride a train, it will be wet and slippery. During Songkran, this is allowed. Thus, you need to wear the right footwear and watch your steps all the time.
Be Prepared to Walk As you Celebrate Songkran Festival
Moving from one place to another may be very difficult during Songkran. Therefore, you might have to walk. Lots of roads are blocked just for the water throwing activities. If possible, find a hotel that is located near the area of festivities.
Plan Ahead If You Want to Experience Khao San Road
Book your hotel ahead of time. If you want to attend the New Year’s Eve parade on Khao San Road with the Thai people, it’s even more essential. If you are planning to move around Northern Thailand, head to Bangkok, or out toward Patong Beach during this holiday period, make early ticket reservations. This tradition is also about going home to families and being with them during the holiday. Therefore, everyone is moving from and to Chiang Mai. This explains why travel tickets run out early.
Happy Songkran Festival Greetings
What is the best way of greeting locals during the Songkran Festival? As with the Chinese New Year, Songkran Festival is an event where Thais celebrate the New Year in their families’ Generation House.
If you happen to be in Thailand for the Songkran Festival, it might be wise to brush up on a few Thai phrases and wish the local people a very Merry Songkran. Although you’ll probably get by with English, here’s how to say Happy Songkran: “Sà-weat-dee phee mài!”. This directly translates to “I wish you the happiest Songkran!”