An entire nation having a big water fight! This is one of the fun descriptions that the Songkran Festival has earned in recent years. Songkran is one of Thailand’s major festivals that has gained worldwide fame.
The festival is actually the Thai’s version of a New Year celebration, but it is celebrated later in the year, around the second or third week of April. This is because the dates for Songkran are originally based on Buddhist calendar and not the western one. Water is the prime element that rules the festival. According to tradition, the sprinkling of water is a symbol of good luck and respect to Buddha.
Songkran is celebrated all throughout the cities and towns in Thailand. Although there are many activities and even shows staged during the festival days, the main venue of the festival is the streets. A number of people walk around the streets carrying buckets of water or water guns with one agenda in mind- to soak anyone in sight.
Although the festival typically lasts for 3 days, the first day is the one known as the Songkran Day. This day is typically marked by elaborate Buddha image processions held in various parts of the country. This is also the time when the Thai people do a lot of house cleaning in preparation for the New Year. And if you are wondering when the water throwing begins, the first day is considered the most wet and wild.
But Songkran is not all about getting wet, it is also a reminder on the importance of family. Thus, during the festival, many Thai people head back to their home towns to spend some quality time with their family, especially the older ones. And because it is a Buddhist celebration, a lot of locals also make their way to temples to witness the ceremony where water is poured on Buddha statues and images as well as on the hands of Buddhist monks.
The best time to see a formal Songkran ritual is on April 14th, which is the old Thai New Year’s Eve celebration called Wan Nao. On this day, devout Buddhists go to the temple to make the pagoda-like structure known as sand chedis. The actual Thai New Year’s Day is on the 15th of April. This is also the final day of the Songkran festival in many parts of Thailand. There are plenty of events that take place this day and several Thai families choose to leave various offerings at temples.
For tourists, Songkran is one of the most exciting and fascinating times to visit Thailand. And since it is celebrated all throughout the nation, you have the flexibility to choose where to experience it. In the capital Bangkok, the official opening ceremony takes places in one of the most important Buddhist temples in the country – the Wat Pho.
Travelers especially backpackers head out to Khao San Road to party and do a lot of water throwing. Chiang Mai is one Thai destination that has one of the biggest Songkran celebrations. If you want to experience the festival longer than the usual three days, Chiang Mai is the spot. On top of water throwing, Chiang Mai celebrates by staging traditional and cultural shows and events. This is also the prime time to sample the best street food the region has to offer.