So what is Songkran, you may ask?
So today is Songkran in Thailand which is also known as the water festival. Many travelers here today will be celebrating the water festival by throwing pool parties and going around the streets throwing water at each other. I wonder though, how many of us actually know what this festival signifies?
I thought that before we went out there today and had a whole heap of fun I would write a short post on the meaning and significance of Songkran as I believe it is important to pay respect to the age old tradition.
What is Songkran?
Songkran is also know as Thai New Year and is celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of April. The word generates from a Sanskrit word which translates to mean, in English, “astrological passage”. This celebration also coincides with many other south east Asian new years celebrations. Songkran has been celebrated for centuries and is popular everywhere in Thailand now. However, the biggest celebration of the event is held in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand.
Traditions of Songkran
For tourists, as I am lead to believed, nothing much other than drenching people and getting drenched with a butt load of water happens. For the Thais however, there is a lot more significance.
The significance of water to the Thais is how this massive nation wide water fight began. The people of Thailand strongly believe that water signifies cleansing and renewal and the tradition of splashing water for Songkran is one of peace and is very gentle.
In the morning of the 13th of April, many Thais will visit a Wat (Buddhist Temple/Monastary) and pay respect, pray and give food to the monks. They will also cleanse their Buddhist statues and images from their household shrines by pouring water and a special Thai fragrance over them. In Chiang Mai and other cities they will also proceed down the main street with Buddha images from all over the city and people with gently splash water on them as a sign of cleansing and renewal.
Not only do the Thais sprinkle water delicately on the Buddhist images but the young also sprinkle water on the old as a mark of respect and blessing. Very unlike what we will witness today, this is a delicate and peaceful moment where the younger Thais will sprinkle scented water on the shoulder and down the back of their elder and as they do this they will give them blessings and wish them well for the new year.
Another tradition the Thais have during Songkran is tying strings to people’s wrists as an expression of good wishes for the new year. They will tie the string around the persons wrist while their wrist is facing upwards, wishing them well for the year. It is them expected you keep the string tied to your wrist until it naturally falls off.
There are many more traditions also, such as people splashing a white powdery paste substance over people to rid them from evil and as a sign of protection. You can read more about Songkran by visiting this website where I got a lot of my information from.
What Will We Experience?
While a lot of the gentle, delicate water splashing is done inside the home in privacy, out on the streets is where the “real fun” is. Locals and travelers alike will hone water guns, buckets and bottles filled with water and splash people all over the street. Taxis convert in to water stations where you can refill your chosen water throwing equipment. There is no escaping getting wet so having no valuables with you is an important part of the day. Apparently where we are, after the festivities of the street water fighting occur, many people head to the beach to continue celebrating.
Although I think it is unlikely since we are not in Chiang Mai, I really do hope to witness some spiritual and sentimental moments of Songkran today. Either way though, I am sure it will be fun and we will post about our experience soon!!