Celebrating Songkran in Thailand

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Date: April 5th 2017
Traveller: Carla Rijnders
It’s almost Songkran – a time to celebrate the Thai New Year! The Thai New Year is celebrated a bit differently than the western New Year. First of all, it is celebrated in April and secondly, water is used in celebration instead of fireworks! But that’s not all, read on to get introduced to this interesting festival.

The Buddhist calendar begins with the death of the Buddha 543 years before the start of the Christian calendar. This means that the year 2017 is actually 2560! And it’s celebrated in April according to the sun and star alignment rather than the beginning of the lunar year, which means it’s being celebrated from 13 to 15 April (in Chiang Mai it’s even celebrated for 6 full days!).
Songkran marks the end of the dry season and the beginning of the annual rain. One of the reasons why water has always been part of the celebration, however, it was never used as abundantly as the recent years. In the old days, scented water was poured over statues of Buddha for good luck. This water was saved and then gently sprinkled onto loved ones as a blessing, to bring luck and prosperity for the coming year. Over the years, this holy tradition has changed into huge water fights – anywhere and everywhere in Thailand. Thais (and many tourists) go around the streets with containers of water or super soakers. So expect to get wet when you come down to visit Thailand (and plenty of other countries in the area such as Laos and Myanmar) during this time of the year!

Songkran is the festival of the year everyone in Thailand has been waiting for  - most people are off to celebrate and welcome the New Year. There is loads of fun to be had during this time, however, there are a couple of things you should take into account:
  • Start practicing ‘Sawasdee Pee Mai’ – the Thai way of wishing everyone a Happy New Year.
  • Protect your valuables; don’t think that because you’re not wearing a water gun you won’t be hit. Because nobody is safe during Songkran! So make sure to waterproof your phone, camera and other valuables that can’t stand water when you head out.
  • Mind your surroundings: Even though we just said nobody is safe, well there are some people that are… Don’t splash monks, elderly or babies! A big no-no. Also make sure to never throw water on motorbikes, as this can be dangerous and cause accidents.
  • Clothes: Water will be flying everywhere, so make sure to wear shoes that can protect your feet and on which it’s safe to walk. You can wear swimsuits, however, you have to wear something over it. You’re not allowed to walk around topless (both for men and women!) in Thailand, so always cover up with a shirt and shorts. And goggles or sunglasses will help you keep that water out of your eyes.

This year also marks exactly six months to the day that Thailand’s King Bhumibol passed away. The passing of Thailand’s King brings a one-year mourning period with it. This means that the celebrations can be toned down, which also happened during the western New Year period. Celebrations on Khao San Road have already been canceled, so do keep in mind that it might be a little bit different than other years. For up to date information, check out this website.

We hope you have loads of fun and off course a Sawasdee Pee Mai!

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