The Songkran festival is the traditional Thai New Year’s Day and is celebrated from 13 April to 15 April.
History behind the festival –
The word Songkran is from the Sanskrit language and means the passage of the sun from one sign of the Zodiac to another. That means there are twelve Songkrans each year, but the significance of the this Songkran (sometimes called Major Songkran to distinguish it from the others) is when the sun enters the sign of Aries the Ram. The particular event was also closely related to the Vernal Equinox.
Celebrating New Year at the time of the Vernal Equinox was very common in the past. The Songkran celebration is similar to those of the Indian Holi Festival, the Chinese Ching Ming, and the Christian Festival of Easter. Indeed April Fool’s Day probably originated as mocking those who didn’t accept the switch of New Year from April to January in France in the Sixteenth Century.
The date was originally set by astrological calculations, but it is now fixed on 13 April. The festival may be extended if some of the celebrations fall over a weekend.
In Thailand, New Year is now officially celebrated on January 1, in line with almost all other countries. Songkran was the official New Year until 1888, when it was switched to a fixed date of 1 April. It wasn’t until 1940, that this date was then shifted to 1 January.
What is Songkran?
Songkran is the occasion for family re-unions, temple visits and annual house cleaning. Many Thais observe the holidays by spending time with families and friends. Traditionally, Thais perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual on the first day of Songkran, which is officially the National Elderly Day.
During the ritual, young people would pour fragrant water into the elders’ palms as a gesture of humility and to ask for their blessings.
The second day of Songkran is officially the National Family Day. Families would wake up early and give alms to the monks, then ideally the rest of the day would be spent sharing quality family time together.
Water as Symbolism –
Traditionally, Thais would politely pour a bowl of water on members of the family, their close friends and neighbours. As Songkran has taken a more festive note, a bowl becomes a bucket, garden hose and water guns, and the spirit of holiday merriment is shared amongst all town residents and tourists alike.
An important religious ritual on Songkran is ‘Bathing the Buddha image’, in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over Buddha statues both at the temple and at home.
More religious Thais would engage themselves in Buddhist ceremonies and merit-making activities throughout the holidays.
Apart of that…Songkran is for….