March 14, 2015
Songkran Festival 2015 Mayhem on a grand scale.
When: 13, 14 & 15th April 2015
Where: Through-out Thailand
Facts about Songkran
The name Songkran comes from the Sanskrit ‘sankranta’, meaning ”a move or change in the position of the sun from Aries to Taurus,”. It is by far Thailand’s most important festival and is a three day public holiday. It is the festival that marks the beginning of the New Year in the traditional Thai calendar.
The three days of the festival each have their own name and significance
The first day is known as Wan Maha Songkran. It is also National Day for Older Persons.
The second as Wan Nao. It is also observed as Thailand’s ‘Family Day’ (Thailand in 1991 was one of the first countries in the world to celebrate Family day)
Songkran is a time for families to return home and spend time with each other, it is also when Buddha images from private homes and temples are cleaned with scented water. In cities and towns through-out the Kingdom, Buddha images once cleansed are taken from the temples and paraded through the streets. Temple activities are the most important Buddhist aspects of the celebrations with the mornings being a time for listening to sermons and merit making. It is also at this time when people will take sand to the temples and construct small sand pagodas, decorated with flags and flowers. This ancient Thai tradition with it’s roots in Buddhism has two distinct meanings firstly as a retribution to Buddha and the second to replace any sand that may have been taken out of the temple on the soles of the people, this is due to the fact that it is sinful to remove ‘anything’ from a temple.
Water plays is a very important part during the traditional festivities, not only in cleaning the images of Buddha but also as a mark of respect and to seek an elders blessings by younger people, who gently pour the scented water over the shoulder and down the back of the person and at the same time offer good wishes and words of blessing for the New Year. The water symbolizes cleansing the past, as well as to refresh everything for the New Year.
The ritual of the tying of strings is not as common as the water rituals but is still an important event to both the receiver and the giver. The ritual involves the tying of strings around the wrists of others and at the same time the person giving the string recites short prayers of blessing. These are to be left on until they fall off of their own accord.
From this traditional gentle and humble use of water Songkran has evolved to a time of utter madness, where the sole object is to drench any and every-body around you, it is a fun filled time when water and booze are flowing in equal measure and where young and old get to enjoy this carnival atmosphere which goes on from dawn to dusk and for many days. (In Pattaya the mayhem goes on for 10 days)
White powder…..no not that type of powder, is commonly used during the festivities and is actually one of the oldest Songkran traditions. The white paste is a sign of protection and promises to ward off evil. The talc paste is applied by hand to various parts of the face, neck and torso. While the paste is pretty harmless in the modern Songkran it does get plastered into your eyes, nose, ears, hair and mouth and can sting so it’s worth washing off, which those around you will do gladly with the aid of a bucket of ice cold water.
A word of warning road accidents are very common during Songkran and the numbers actually killed on the roads over this period is alarming, therefore if you do have to travel don’t use a motor bike.
Songkran has Rules…… No Honest
Where ever you spend your time throwing untold gallons of water at all and sundry, there are a few rules to abide by, pregnant women and Monks are not considered valid targets. (The local constabulary are fair game) You should refrain from drenching the interiors of buildings and with all good things the day does have to come to an end, once the sun goes down its time to hang up the water gun and get ready for the evening entertainment if you have any strength left that is. Those who do not follow these simple rules can fall foul of the local police and the wrath of those that have had enough for the day.
One thing is for certain you are going to get wet and you are likely to stay that way all day long, which is no bad thing as April is the hottest month of the year here in Thailand. If you have a fear of water, crowds or simply do not like joining in with others then, stay away from the Kingdom during this period as nobody can avoid the utter mayhem that is Songkran.
Listed below are a number of the largest Songkran festival through-out the Kingdom. This is by no means a complete list.
Songkran Across Thailand 2015
The Central, Eastern and Western regions
Chon Buri: Sand pagoda ceremony on Lai Day, Bang Saen District. Cultural activities, including sand sculpture contests along Bangsaen beach, 16-17 April.
Pattaya: Join a range of fun activities at North, Central and South Pattaya Beaches and Lan Bodhi Park Na Kluea, 10-20 April.
Ayutthaya: Probably Thailand’s most unique Songkran celebration with elephants joining the fun! In front of TAT Ayutthaya Office, 13-15 April.
Samut Prakan: Meet the locals, mostly ethnic Mon, resplendent in traditional outfits. Make merit, join a colourful parade and take part in fun activities in front of the Phra Pradaeng district office, 18-20 April.
Suphan Buri: A colourful Songkran procession from 10 districts, beauty contests and concerts, in front of Suphanburi Bus Station, 12-14 April.
Nakhon Phanom: The joint Thai-Lao Songkran festival showcases the cultures of seven different ethnic groups in Nakhon Phanom province. Join in merit making by offering sticky rice to the monks, by Kankrao market, 12-15 April.
Nakhon Phanom, Renu District: Watch the famous traditional dance called ‘Ram Phu Tai’, together with a magical ‘Bai Sri’ ceremony where locals welcome visitors by tying a small string on their wrists, 12-15 April
Nong Khai: Get a sense of history at the first Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, water the Luang Por Phra Sai, the highly-revered Buddha image of the Nong Khai people and experience a merit-making ceremony at Wat Pho Chai, Nong Prachak Road, 6-18 April.
Khon Kaen: Enjoy Songkran in the Khon Kaen style with traditional ceremonies, merit-making and 10 days of fun, 5-15 April.
Nakhon Si Thammarat: Watch the spectacular Nang Dan cultural procession, join the locals in paying homage to Phra Maha That Chadi Nakhon Si Thammarat, and purify the Phra Buddha Sihing at Suan Si Thammasokarat and Hor Phra Shiva, 12-14 April.
Hat Yai: Witness one of Thailand’s most unique ways to celebrate Songkran as the clock strikes midnight at Nipat Uthit 3 Road, Sanehanusorn Road and Wat Mahatta, 11-15 April.
Koh Samui: Join local and international tourists in marking the Thai New Year at the famous Chaweng Beach with a range of fun activities, 13 April.
If you would prefer your fun on the dry side check out what else is going on in Thailand in April here