Of all the festivals in Thailand, which are many, Songkran Festival is the most striking, for it is widely observed not only in this country but also in Burma, Cambodia and Laos.
Every year from April 13 to 15, the Songkran Festival, marking the traditional Thai New Year, takes place across Thailand. In addition to visiting local temples, people flock to the streets to take part in wide-ranging water fights. The throwing of water has traditionally been a sign of respect and well-wishing, as revelers hope to wash away bad luck.
Songkran is the largest water festival in the world and people come from all corners of the globe to join in. Set in the middle of the hot season, Participants armed with buckets, water guns and big barrels of freezing cold water are ready to exchange in a friendly water fight.
The word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word samkranti literally meaning ‘astrological passage’, the transformation of change.
The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. Mornings begin with merit-making. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced.
On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck.
As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders. As a way to show respect, younger people often practice water pouring over the palms of elders’ hands. Paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of Songkran tradition.
Honoring family traditions and religious practices are important parts of Songkran, but so is having some fun. Outside, Songkran is celebrated with street parties featuring loud music and a giant friendly water fight.
People collect water in buckets, squirt guns, and anything else they can find, then hit the streets to playfully splash each other. In some places, elephants even get in on the action, squirting water from their trunks on people passing by. It’s a good thing April is one of the hottest months of the year in Thailand!
Like I mentioned earlier Songkran is celebrated on April 13 to 15 however in Pattaya it generally starts a little earlier (usually by foreigners throwing water from bars at people passing by) and goes on well passed the 15th.
The main days that the celebrations really kick in are the 18th and the 19th. Naklua in North Pattaya comes to a halt on the 18th with the final day being the 19th when the whole of beach road comes to a stand-still and most major hotels, bars and even Central Festival join in to create possibly the world’s biggest water fight.
Songkran is a no-holds-barred water fight, and tourists are fair game, both to be soaked and to do the soaking, with the ultimate prize being soaking someone who is dry and doesn’t want to get wet.
Don’t be surprised if your smeared in talcum powder mixed with water forming a paste, this is all in good nature to wish you luck, happiness and fortune for the coming year.
Pattaya can quickly escalate into an outrageous celebration of life and freedom with beach road and most major soi’s having their own celebrations whether it be out of beer bars or pick-up trucks parked along the roadside, Pattaya knows how to party hard.
The weeks running up to Songkran you will be able to buy your weapon of choice (water gun) almost everywhere and do remember to buy a little zip/plastic/wallet/bag to keep your belongings in especially your phone and money.
Do remember though Songkran be a dangerous time also, especially on the roads and the numbers of people injured and even worse in accidents has risen over the years some related to alcohol and others by people being soaked on motorbikes and the like.
So what I’m saying is by all means have fun and party but be as respectful as you can to others and especially Thais at this time of year.
By Paul Johnson