History And Legend Of Songkran
It isn’t surprising that Thailand is one of the most popular places to visit among international tourists. After all, the country has an incredibly rich history in every sense of the word, whether it involves religion, food, dance, customs, and more. However, Songkran is the Thai New Year, and is a national holiday celebrated in all areas of the country.
For those who might not be aware, Songkran as a word is derived from Sanskrit, and it means “shift, “movement”, or “transition”. It refers to the transition from one sign of Zodiac to another. Songkran is celebrated over the course of several days in mid-April, when it is usually extremely hot in Thailand. The “official dates” of the celebration are April 13-15, 2019. The holiday is extremely popular, and is expected to attract over two million international tourists this year itself.
Traditions Of Songkran
For those who might be wondering what exactly happens during Songkran, or what the purpose is - it is a time where individuals are meant to ring in the new year. Water is used a symbolic blessing that washes away sins and provides luck for the new year. That is why throwing water is such an essential part of the festival, and it is considered “good luck” to be soaked in water. Given the fact that it is also extremely hot in April in Thailand, this can also be quite refreshing. Water is thrown using buckets, water guns, and other means.
While Songkran is a celebration that many tourists love participating in - it has deeper roots as a holiday where one is expected to surround themselves with family, especially their elders. Professionals often travel back home to be with their family during this time. There are many that also travel to monasteries during Songkran, and offer gifts and meals to monks during this time. All around the country, families and individuals wash Buddha statues and sprinkle water on images of Buddha, as a sign of homage and respect.
There is also a white chalky paste often associated with Songkran that is also thrown, that many outside Thailand may not be that familiar with. Chalk is often used in blessings by monks, which is how the tradition has evolved into its modern-day iteration.
Those living in Thailand associate Songkran with “spring cleaning”, and clean their homes vigorously before Songkran. During Songkran, both locals and tourists clean images of Buddha with water, as a sign of respect and homage, as well. There are those who make “resolutions”, the same way that others might make New Year resolutions, during this time, as well. The idea is to “start off fresh” after Songkran.
While traditions and customs often vary, there is an overall schedule to Songkran that many follow. Since Songkran involves several days of celebration, it usually incorporates various rituals.
Houses are cleaned with water on the first day, and many individuals congregate around water reservoirs. On the second day, sweets are cooked and brought to monks and sand pagodas are also made, often decorated with flower petals as well. There are also often festive celebrations on the second night, including music, Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and more. On the third day, families often go to the temple, and congregate at the houses of elders in the family. On the fourth day, there are often parades and processions, and younger people often wash the hands of older individuals as a sign of respect.
Safe From Songkran
It is easy to get caught up in the fun, but it’s also important to remember local custom and culture. During Songkran, there are certain individuals that should never be splashed with water. First, throwing water on a monk is considered a sign of disrespect. Also, never throw water on the elderly or babies, because this is not culturally acceptable as well. While there are many businesses that shut down during Songkran, do not throw on those who are working, either. The last rule, which might be obvious to some, is to never throw water on motorcycle drivers, because this can lead to a serious injury if they are driving.
Of course, make sure to keep your documents, belongings and clothing protected from water, if you are concerned about whether they might be damaged.