AS mid-April’s temperature rises, ushering in the beginning of the hot season in Thailand, the whole country reverberates with the sounds of cheerful laughter and merry-making. The occasion is the Songkran festival, which ushers in the Thai New Year, celebrated nationwide from April 13-15 yearly. It is a time when much of the worries of the past year are left behind so that a new beginning could be planned for the year ahead.
The water-splashing that usually accompanies a Thai New Year is certainly most appropriate, especially during the hot month.
Step out of your hotel rooms and you would probably be greeted by young and old alike with buckets of water or water guns, especially designed for the occasion. And if you are lucky, then the splashing would be followed by a face makeup with talcum powder and perfume. `Songkran’ (from the Sanskrit word Sankranti, signifying the sun’s shift from one zodiac to another) heralding the beginning of the solar year and is the most important festival for the people of Thailand.
The festival is celebrated over three days, Mahasongkran on April 13, that marks the end of the old year, Wan Nao (April 14) is the day after and April 15 is Wan Thaloeng Sok when the New Year begins.
On New Year’s Day, families and friends gather to offer prayers to the Buddha, clean temples and houses, offer alms to the monks and sprinkle scented water on elders as a mark of respect and on each other’s hands as an act of wishing good luck.
The pouring of water is symbolic of the cleansing of the spirit, mind and body. The water is also supposed to wash away bad luck-so consider yourself blessed if you get drenched.
In recent years, the tradition of sprinkling water has been interpreted by youngsters as a great excuse for a water fight, and it is not uncommon to have buckets and containers of water thrown at you by teams of merry makers in the backs of trucks as you make your way down the street – particularly in major tourist areas like Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai.
The people of Thailand work hard in a very hot climate, so it only makes sense that their biggest party is the world’s largest water fight accompanied with music, dancing and tons of splashing, as the typically mellow populace explodes into wild celebration.
M. Hat Yai, there is something called the Midnight Songkran, where festivities and splashing of water begin at the stroke of midnight on April 12 to cater to the large number of tourists from Malaysia who trooped to the southern Thai city to join in the fun.
This year, the Thai New Year falls on a Wednesday. Make sure you book your accommodation early as you don’t want to miss out on this yearly celebration.
Information extracted from Thailand Travel Talk (March Edition) for further information visit http://www.tourismthailand.org/