This weekend sees the Chinese New Year Festival starting and in 2 months time, Thai New Year celebrations start… Songkran is held on 13th April every year. The word songkran literally means “astrological passage” meaning transformation or change.
Songkran is traditionally held over 3 days.
Although many Thais start the New Year celebrations a few days before the official start and carry on celebrating for a few days after the official end of Songkran… This is a time of fun and celebration all the colourful shirts and even shop staff wear those colourful shirts, everyone, everywhere dresses up and all are happy and joyful…
The term Songkran originated from Makar Sankranti a Hindu festival celebrated in India to mark the arrival of spring. Coinciding with the rising of Aries in the astrological calendar, this festival is in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar, which is on many calendars of the south and south-east Asia.
It is a time when water is used to cleanse the body and purify the soul by washing away one’s sins. Also, it is a time when people return to their home provinces to celebrate with family and friends.
There is so much fun and laughter and if you don’t wish to get soaked .. then stay home…. Everyone wears bright coloured shirts and most are toting a water gun or hose pipe or just buckets of water. The aim being to soak all and sundry although as the weather is very hot is quite welcome and fun… You will see children playing in paddling pools, big bowls of water all along the roadside and they are just having fun and the adults they just release their inner child.
The addition of talcum powder is also a tradition so it is advisable to wear some sort of eye protection though most don’t. But sometimes a medicated talc is used and it can sting your eyes and there is also the water it may not come from the cleanest source at times.
It is a fun occasion for the young and the not so young to enjoy a fun-filled day. The wigs, colourful shirts and water guns of all sorts, it brings the child out in everyone.
Although I will say that I am always asked if it is ok to throw water at me as I am older it is customary to just pour the water over the hands of an older person.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Expect to get wet, very wet – Only wear clothes you’d be ok with if they got ruined.
- It’s normally hot, very hot – April is the hottest month of the year, wear your sunscreen
- Carry your belongings in a waterproof bag – Cash, wallet, passport, anything you shouldn’t get wet. Don’t take out your cell phone or camera on the streets, find someplace inside.
- Keep your stuff secure – There are large crowds and with them come pickpockets.
- Everyone is fair game – you’ll even see people (Thai’s) soaking police officers (not recommended if you are a visitor)
- Be smart – Don’t throw water at young children, the elderly, monks, police, or shoot someone in the face with water.
- Be safe – There is a lot of drinking going on and deaths from drinking and driving are very high during Songkran.
- It’s going to be very busy and crowded – walk if you can or use public transportation if you must
- Avoid motorbikes if you can – people will throw buckets of water into the face of drivers. This can lead to loss of control and accidents.
- Have fun and smile! This is a time for celebration, enjoy it.
If you are in Thailand for Songkran then stay safe, enjoy and get yourself a big water pistol…
Some essentials for Songkran handpicked by me for you…
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