Those who find themselves in Thailand for Songkran, the country’s New Year Festival, will enjoy huge water fights and parties with both locals and fellow visitors. It’s quite the experience: hilarious, a little mischievous, and pleasently random from the western point of view.
But how many travelers truly understand what they are celebrating and why these traditions exist?
When participating in a foreign holiday abroad, knowing a little background on the festival often makes it a more memorable and meaningful experience. Here’s what you should know about Songkran:
- It’s name comes from a Sanskrit word that speaks of the passage of time and transformation. It is believed to signify a fresh start. You can put old mistakes and struggles behind you and start anew.
- There are three rules you are meant to follow on this particular day. 1) Put your work aside for the day, and don’t encourage others to work by shopping, eating out, or hiring any services. 2) Do nothing to harm other humans or animals. 3) Only tell the truth.
- The water fights and chalky pastes are for purification. Think of it as washing away the negatives in your life. After the celebrations, you are clean and ready for a new year full of hope.
- It’s not all a party. Traditionally, the mornings tend to start on a more serious note. People will sprinkle water over the elderly in their family, the graves of their ancestors, and a statue of the Buddha.
- It’s also a time for charity. Donations are made and food is given to monks at the local temples.
- Bright colors are worn to celebrate Spring. You will see a lot of bright floral shirts and flower necklaces. This is welcoming and celebrating the warmest time of the year in Thailand.
- Fireworks are set off to scare away malicious spirits. These displays are most common in the South.
- Similar to China, each new year is represented by an animal. The same animals are used, but the years do not match. In Thailand, 2017 will be the year of the Monkey, a time for playfulness, optimism, curiosity, and fun.