Throughout the Western hemisphere as well as the Roman Catholic European nations, April is the month to celebrate Easter and our religious heritage. On the other side of the world however, April is the time to participate in the exciting festival of Songkran, celebrated in the countries of Thailand, Burma, and Cambodia; the Thai New Year celebration. Songkran is a Sanskrit term that refers to the launching of the sun into any of the twelve zodiac signs. Respectively, this phenomenon occurs twelve times in a year, but this Songkran is referred to as “ Major Songkran” honoring the sun entering into the sign of Aries (the ram). This festival takes place April 13-15th and is filled with festivities of all sorts. One interesting function that occurs each of the three celebration days are huge water fights. Many participants fill toy water guns and spray people passing along the streets. Some even use hoses to douse passing people from the beds of pickup trucks. This water fight isn’t random though, the water is a symbol of washing away all of the previous year’s misfortunes and ill luck. Aside from the jovial water battles, each day itself has special activities premeditated. Day one, April 13th, is known as Wan Sungkharn Lohng. On this day, all houses, shops, and schools are closed and cleaned. Negative influences from the previous year are washed away dissolved. Besides the cleansing, sacred Buddha images are also taken from local temples and put on display in the huge Chiangmai Songkran parade. Wan Nao is the title for day two of festivities, April 14th. Day two is when Thais go to temples to build sand chedis (sand castles built to resemble Buddhist temples). They decorate these intricate sand castles with paper streamers and colorful flowers. In completion of the festival, day three or Wan Payawan is considered the New Year. Throughout the morning, worshippers offer food, robes, and other needed items to the Buddhist monks.
One final and fascinating ritual of this festival is Rod Nam Dam Hua. This ritual consists of the younger people pouring scented water into the hands of their parents and elders. This action is a sign of respect and an attempt for a blessing in return. Afterwards, the young people tie strings of white around their wrists as a sign of longevity. Symbolic, colorful, exciting, and fun, this festival seems like a perfect event to place on your bucket list; just don’t forget your water guns!