Thailand’s most celebrated holiday is the Songkran New Year Festival. The Songkran celebrations usually begin on April 13, which is the start of the New Year in many Asian calendars, and will last anywhere from 3 – 10 days.
The most celebrated part of Songkran is the throwing of water. Historically it was a ritual of sprinkling scented water from silver bowls onto a Buddha statue to cleanse the statue. This water would then be collected and sprinkled on to the shoulders of others as a sign of good luck.
Over the years the water throwing has evolved into the world’s largest street water fight. Both Thais and foreigners gather in various parts of Bangkok armed with water guns, hoses and buckets of ice cold water to wage a liquid war. Fortunately April is at the hottest part of the year.
Thais seem to take great delight in dousing foreigners during this time so some of the best areas to experience Songkran are the areas popular with tourists such as Khaosan Road and Patpong. Make sure you dress appropriately and keep your camera dry or it will be a target for the water pistols!
One of the oldest traditions in Songkran is for an older person to apply white paste to younger people. This is the same paste that is used by the monks and is believed to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.
Songkran is a holiday that is loved by tourists and loathed by many expats, especially those who have to commute to work. Showing up at the office drenched in water and covered in white paste does get old very quickly.
A few things to keep in mind during Songkran is that if you are outside you are sure to get wet. Occasionally a Thai may ask you before they spray you with water or put the paste on your face but this is rare. If you don’t want to get wet, many expats use this time to stay at home or leave the country for holiday.
Besides the water festivals, many Thais will visit a temple to make merit and bathe the monks with rose scented water. If you are not a fan of the water festival, an early morning visit to a nearby temple provides an interesting look at this traditional holiday.
Happy New Year! สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์
More information on Songkran