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Thailand’s Songkran Festival

Songkran ThailandApril is not always the cruelest month, though Thailand in April can sometimes feel that way. It’s hot, hot, and more hot that month, but a special antidote exists: Songkran, or the Water Splashing Festival. Just as the name implies, at Songkran a lot of water gets dispersed.

Here’s a little bit about this super fun celebration:

History of Songkran

Songkran is a celebration of the Thai New Year, and historically it’s a recognition of spring Equinox (think of it as a pagan Easter…). The word “Songkran” is Sanskrit, and means “passing through” or “astrological passage.” In this case, it used to be the passing of the sun into Aries. The dates used to be calculated by an astrological calendar, but are now generally set to April 13th through the 15th – though it can extend to a week or more in Chiang Mai.

Cambodia, Laos, and Burma all celebrate Songkran.

Where and how Songkran is celebrated

Water – lots of it. Thais driving by in trucks dumping buckets of water on anyone in their path. Children with squirt guns (or, squirt rifles), drenching each other. Garden hoses are aimed at passerby. Elephants fill their trunks and spray the crowd. Occasionally chalk or talcum powder is added or mixed into the water.  If you don’t want to get wet, (or chalky) you should probably lock yourself up inside your hotel room. The good news is that Songkran is a welcome antidote to April’s stifling heat.

It’s not all a giant water fight, however. In the morning, Thais visit local wats to pray. They’ll also cleanse household Buddhas by pouring water over them (which I think is a very nice way to “spring clean”). Larger Buddhas are also paraded in the streets so that people can drench them with water as well, in a ritual cleansing. Originally, this is what Songkran was about: cleaning Buddhas, then capturing the water to clean your family’s hands with it.

The biggest Songkran celebration is in Chiang Mai, where participants line the Old City’s moat and fill water guns and buckets. The entire country will celebrate it, though the festival is biggest in the north. In Bangkok, foreigners join in the fun on Khao San Road, which turns into a big party.

Tip: Book your accommodation ahead of time, because you’ll want to have air-conditioning this time of year!

More information:

[Photo Credit: Wyndham, Flickr]