Songkran: Thailand’s Splashy New Year

When I first starting traveling, I found it very odd that different places celebrated New Year’s at different times. That way of thinking is long in the past. I’m pretty sure that it’s possible to celebrate New Year’s once a month (at least) if you really want to.

In April 2016 I was in Thailand for New Year’s which they call Songkran Festival. I’ve also heard it called “Thai Water Festival.” It is April 13-15 every year. All shops and offices will definitely be closed those days, though don’t be surprised if offices are closed for a week.

Songkran is originally meant to be about spiritual cleansing and showing respect to elders. During Songkran, people go to temples, go to parades, and spend time with family.

I went to a beautiful temple in the Chiang Mai old town where they had built sand pagodas. The Buddha attained enlightenment sitting under a Bodhi tree. This Buddha is sitting under a Bodhi tree also. The flags in the sand and the sticks “holding up” the Bodhi tree were placed by visitors who gave a donation. 

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Most beautiful was the covered walkway next to the small Buddha statues that you would bathe with scented water. It was over 105 F that day, and pouring water on the small statues felt so tender and caring.

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On the first day of Songkran, there was a parade. Some people wear tradition Thai clothes, but others wear flowered shirts.

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The parade is comprised of community groups in traditional clothes dancing or just walking in procession. Locals line the streets ready to pour water on each other and people in the parade.

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But the real attractions are the Buddha statues that are on the backs of trucks.

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People have silver bowls (or little plastic buckets) with scented water. They splash the Buddha statue with water. Next they gather some of the water that pours off the statue, and they splash this water on their own heads for a blessing.

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Day two is for the family. People share a meal together and pour water on their elders’ hands to show love and respect.

And on day three, there’s another parade. This one is a little sillier. There are no tiny Buddha’s, just Thai people splashing each other with water.

Happy New Year!

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