Songkran Festival: Celebrating the Thai New Year

Sprinkle water onto a Buddha Relics in Songkran Festival
Sprinkle water onto a Buddha Relics in Songkran Festival. ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์ – เทวประภาส มากคล้าย [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Songkran ( สงกรานต์) is the most famous and favorite festival in Thailand celebrated with a great deal of fervor and zest. It is a significant event of the Buddhist Calendar which marks the beginning of the Thai New Year. The word Songkran originates from Sanskrit and means “approaching” and hence this water festival is celebrated to welcome the Thai New Year ( ปีใหม่ไทย). The Songkran Festival is celebrated from 13th to 15th of April every year.

Water – Integral Part of Songkran Celebrations

Water has become a major element of the Songkran Festival in recent times as throwing water on each other has become the biggest part of these annual celebrations. Packed crowds are seen hurling water at each other while cheering with great zest. People on the vehicles are seen pouring water buckets on masses while youngsters carry giant fluorescent water guns around to soak anyone they encounter.

Songkran Festival 2019 in Silom
Songkran Festival 2019 in Silom. People hurling water at each other. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

Family – Valued by Songkran

To appreciate and value the family is another aspect of this festival with most of the people going back to their hometown to spend happy moments with their relatives. Buddhists pay visits to their temples and pour water on Buddha images as well as the hands of the monks to pay their respects.

Pouring water on the Songkran festival
Pouring water on the Songkran festival. By Tris_T7Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The 3 Day Celebrations

The 3 days that the festival lasts have different meanings for each of them and also different activities are carried on.

The first day of the festival is known as Wan Maha Songkran ( วันมหาสงกรานต์) which comprises of a cheerful and enthusiastic celebration in which processions take place throughout the country with the image of Buddha. The Thai people also clean their houses to prepare themselves for the beginning of the New Year. Also, the water throwing gets going on April 13.

Songkran celebration at Lumphini
Songkran celebration at Lumphini. By PEAK99 [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The second day, also called Wan Nao ( วันเนา) or Family Day takes place on the April 14 when the Sun is traveling between the Pisces and the Aries and this is when the old Thai New Year’s Eve is celebrated. Wan Nao also marks the major formal ritual of the Songkran as it is this day when the Buddhists visit their temples to build the Sand Chedis which are sandcastles that resemble the Buddhist temple.

Songkran symbolic sand pagodas in temple
Songkran symbolic sand pagodas in temple. Per Meistrup [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The third day, called Wan Thaloeng Sok ( วันเถลิงศก), is the Thai New Year’s Day and is celebrated on April 15, which marks the final day of the Songkran celebrations. People leave many offerings at the temples to ring Thai New Year while many other events also take place.

Songkran, cleaning of Buddha figure in front of a Temple
Songkran, cleaning of Buddha figure in front of a Temple. By Per Meistrup, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Where to Celebrate

Bangkok celebrates the Songkran Festival with great enthusiasm from April 13 to 15. Wat Pho is the place where an official opening ceremony of the festival is held. Water throwing, processions, ritual bathing of the images of Buddha, and performances are some of the major events of this festival. A tantalizing assortment of traditional foods is another highlight of the festival which is enjoyed by everyone till the end.

There are plenty of places to celebrate the festival if you are a foreigner. When it comes to the capital of Thailand, Khao San Road ( ถนนข้าวสาร), and Silom Road ( ถนนสีลม) are the tourist hotspots where you can party throughout the day and even night.

Chiang Mai, Thailand: Songkran Festival
Chiang Mai, Thailand: Songkran Festival. Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas or alternatively © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Phuket is also the center of some heavy celebrations, so if you plan on leaving your hotel during Songkran, prepare to be drenched in water the minute you step out. Don’t mind being carried around in crowds, just go with the flow and have fun. Then comes Chiang Mai which transforms into a huge water fight during the festival.

Songkran is for Everyone

Songkran is not only the most significant festival for the Thai people but is equally popular among the tourists as many of them particularly arrange their holidays around this event. Anyone can get involved in the celebrations. So, if you are roaming around during Songkran you are bound to get soaked and have a ton of fun.

Songkran Festival 2019 in Silom
Songkran Festival 2019. Street vendors selling water guns in Silom Road. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

If you love water and everything about it, then you must plan your Thailand trip around Songkran to have some crazy water fun. Water throwing, processions, ritual bathing of the images of Buddha, and performances are some of the major events of this festival. A tantalizing assortment of traditional foods is another highlight of the festival which is enjoyed by everyone till the end.

Songkran Tips

  • Keep your camera and phone protected with the help of a plastic bag or leave them behind. Invest in a waterproof bag to be on the safe side if you are a tourist.
  • Dress appropriately in an attire that will dry quickly. Avoid white and opt for some lively vibrant colors and prints.
  • Bring along your goggles unless you wish to continue squinting after every 30 seconds.
  • Try to be patient and makes friends with the locals.
  • Visit a temple to get some time out from all the water and spend some time in peace.