2019 Festivals: Songkran (Thai New Year)

By Caitlin Hornik

You’ve heard of Holi and Carnival, but what about Songkran? Consider a trip to Thailand during their New Year celebration! (Did we mention there’s a water fight?)

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What is Songkran?

Songkran is the Thai New Year, taking place annually from April 13th- 16th. It’s known as the festival of water. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word samkranti, meaning passing. We all know that water is symbolic for a variety of reasons. People celebrate the arrival of a new year by using water to wash away the negativity and bad luck from a person’s life. People will celebrate differently depending on their location. Many will spend time doing spring cleaning of their homes. Some will go to larger cities. Others will visit family residing in smaller villages during their days off. Those in Bangkok take to the streets.

Silom: A Famous Bangkok Street Party

You’ve likely seen or been to a street fair. As part of the New Year celebrations, the people of Bangkok throw a street party. There are vendors, toys, games, and water flights. They’ll use balloons, water guns, buckets, and whatever else they can find. Sounds epic, right? April tends to be the hottest month, so the water throwing cools everyone and everything off. Be sure to wear something water-friendly!

Chiang Mai Songkran Festival

Chiang Mai is host to one of Thailand’s biggest Songkran celebrations. It usually begins a day early on April 12th. Residents and tourists alike can expect delicious foods and traditional performances. (And yes, more water throwing!)

Buddhist Traditions

During the celebration, there is an emphasis placed on Buddhist rituals and traditions. This involves going to temple, giving alms to Buddhist monks, and “Bathing the Buddha.” Water is poured on images of Buddha and on Buddhist monks. This is believed to bring good luck but is also a sign of respect. The focus of the festival has shifted more towards joviality in recent times. However, the religious importance is not lost on the Thai people.

New Year’s Day

April 15th is considered New Year’s Day. This is because it is believed to be the day when the sun passes into Aries. The Thai name for New Year’s day is “Wan Payawan.”

Know Before You Go

There are a few important tips to note if you’re traveling to Thailand for Songkran. First, you must carry your passport with you at all times (purchase a waterproof case). This is very important during the celebrations, as Thai law enforcement strictly monitors the New Years festivities. Second, as previously stated, April is the warmest month in Thailand. Be prepared for soaring temperatures, but also to get soaked by the water fights! Third, be aware that no one is exempt from the Songkran festivities except for the elderly, Nuns, and Monks. That means you’ll be thrust right into the mayhem and fun. Enjoy!

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