Songkran is without a doubt the number one festival in Thailand; an event locals look forward to all year long, much like westerners count the days until Christmas holidays.
Officially from April 13th to April 15th, but running unofficially for up to a week in northern parts of the country, these three days represent the last day of the old year, the day of transition, and the first day of the Thai lunar New Year.
The term Songkran itself means ”a move or change in the position of the sun from Aries to Taurus,” a celebration of the end of one year, ‘Troot’ and the beginning of a new year, ‘Songkran’. These are days of cleaning the house, the body, days of merit making and renewal. Nothing evil is to be taken into the New Year.
The festival has undergone changes and modern interpretations over the last 20 years, today amounting to the world’s largest water fight. 63 million Thais arm themselves with water guns, hoses, buckets and an unimaginable slew of contraptions designed to hurl water with maximum soaking force. Stepping outside during this time of year, one must be prepared to be nothing less than drenched. The only thing Thais love more than soaking a foreigner is being blasted by a visitor’s water-weapon of choice.
In former times, revelers sprinkled or spilled a bit of scented water over the hands or shoulders of elders and friends to ask them forgiveness for coarse or wicked speaking.
It’s a time of fun and respect for water, the most important element in the agricultural culture of Southeast Asia. The festival is also well-timed, taking place during the hottest month of the year and a great way to seek relief from temperatures that soar into the high thirties.
A typical Songkran day for locals will entail a visit to a temple to gently pour some water on the temple’s main Buddha image, an attempt to make merit for the coming year. The remainder of the day will then be spent singing, dancing, drinking and soaking with friends and family.