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All you need to know about The Thai Songkran

The Songkran Festival, also known as the Traditional Thai New Year, is usually celebrated in mid- April. It is one of Thailand’s grandest and most important events. The Songkran Festival is a time when family and friends gather to pay gratitude to elders and visit temples for prayer and offering food to the Buddhist monks. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘passing’ or ‘approaching’.

The Songkran Festival celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders so if you are traveling in Thailand during The Songkran you should expect a heavy traffic. Paying reverence to ancestors is an important part of Songkran tradition. also a period when the Thai people cleanse and pour water mixed with Thai fragrance on Buddha images.

The festival also showcases a bathing ritual where the people pour water on the senior Buddhist monks. This process is believed to bring good luck to them. After that, the chief monk will give a sermon and bless those who attend this bathing ritual.

On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues and the young and elderly is a traditional ritual, It represents purification and the washing away of one's sins and bad luck. Songkran is a hugely important festival to Thai people, but it’s also very popular with visitors and many tourists specifically arrange their holidays around this unique event.

The holiday is known for its water festival. Major streets are closed to traffic, and are used as arenas for water fights. Celebrants, young and old, participate in this tradition by splashing water on each other. Anyone and everyone can and will get involved in the celebrations.

If you’re out and about during Songkran, you’re guaranteed to end up soaked but you’ll have lots of fun in the process! and remember it is customary to wish each other 'Sawadee Bee Mai' or 'Happy New Year'.

If you go out during Songkran, then you are fair game. Don’t complain if you are squirted in the face with a water pistol or someone rubs white powder on your face. Although it might not seem like it, they are actually taking part in a centuries old tradition of paying respect to their elders. Let them do it and smile. Resistance is useless.

Keep it cool at all times. Everyone is just having fun. Be prepared for the buckets of water which have been pre-chilled with ice. Also beware that people might come up to you from behind to smear white powder on your face. If they are polite they will ask first. But, you won’t see that happen often. Try not to move too much when they are doing it as you might end up with the paste in your eyes. However, that is inevitable the longer you stay out.

If you don’t want to take part in the water fights then you will need to stock up for at least 3-4 days. Some expats go out to buy enough food to last them the holidays and just read a book on Kindle or download movies. If you do venture out, the chances are high that you will get soaked. Songkran is not just about water fights. Do make an effort to see the more traditional side.

When is Songkran Festival?

The Thailand water festival officially runs for three days starting on April 13 and finishing on April 15. Opening ceremonies begin on the morning of April 13. Although the festival is officially only three days long, many people take off from work and stretch the festival into as long as six days, particularly in tourist places such as Chiang Mai and Phuket.

Which Countries celebrating Songkran other than Thailand

Until 1888, Songkran was the official New Year of Thailand. Today, it is celebrated in many countries in South Asia like China (Dai People of Yunnan Province), Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. It is commonly associated with the element of water which signifies fertility, love, thankfulness and compassion.

Songkran Do's

  1. Put your mobile phone and wallet in a zip-lock bag to prevent them from getting wet.

  2. Wear a swimsuit underneath your clothing to prevent indecent transparency. Thai culture is still pretty conservative and see through white shirts with provocative underwear underneath wouldn’t look good in the locals’ eyes.

  3. Leave your valuables at home or in your hotel safe. You might need to have some extra cash on you and your phone to contact your friends, but only bring the real essentials kept in a zip lock bag.

  4. If you don’t plan to join the water festival that day, it’s probably best to avoid walking on roads as that’s where the party will be.

  5. Take care of yourself. Even though Songkran isn’t the time to be dolled up in your most beautiful dress, you should still apply sunscreen to avoid nasty burns and keep yourself hydrated as it will be the hottest time of the year.

Songkran Don’t

  1. Use banned equipment. Previously, there have been rather hazardous equipment used to shoot water and aim from far distances that have caused accidents in the past. Stick to the legal tools such as small water buckets and light water guns.

  2. Powder strangers. Unless it’s a light tap on the cheek, we recommend that you avoid powdering a stranger’s body as it has recently been banned to avoid indecent touching.

  3. Get too rowdy in the festival. While a drink or two might make the experience fun, it’s best not to get too tipsy to prevent aggressive splashing that can be harmful.

  4. Drink if you are going to drive back to your hotel after the festival for obvious reasons and plus Tahi police will strictly check drivers during the festival.

  5. Wear dressy shoes when walking down the street. As the floors are going to be wet, you should instead opt for sandals or flip-flops with a firm grip to the ground rather than dressy shoes that can make you slip and fall.

  6. For the ladies, we advise you not to wear too much makeup. Keep things minimal and waterproof unless you want to parade the streets looking like a raccoon.

Tips for the Best Songkran Festival Experience

  • The streets can get crowded, so expect heavy traffic.

  • It is recommended to book hotels and Tour Packages in advance, as this is a prime period for tourists.

  • The celebrations generally start at 10 AM and go on till 8 PM.

  • If you do not like getting soaked, then it is recommended you stay indoors.

  • The local monks are not to be drenched as they are highly revered.

  • While outdoors be sure to carry your essentials such as wallets and mobile phones in waterproof pouches to avoid any damage.

  • It is seen as inappropriate to wear revealing clothes or swimwear during this time. Be sure to get comfortable but not too comfortable!!

  • Always wish anyone you can ‘Sawadee Bee Mai’, It means Happy New Year in Thai.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Songkran in Thailand, hopefully this has given you some insight into what makes this event so important and unique, and prepared you for what you can expect from Songkran celebrations throughout the country. Happy water throwing!