This weekend, starting from Friday, people across Thailand will be celebrating Songkran, the Thai New Year. eSense Translations shares the traditions of this festival, their meanings and how the Thai people celebrate.
Songkran is a time of joyous celebration, where Thai people enjoy spending time with their family and friends. Many offices, businesses and independent shops shut and people travel to spend time with their loved ones. This often leads to this time of year being one of the quietest in Bangkok, as the locals leave and traffic is eased. As a result, many tourists choose this time to visit the capital and enjoy the festivities that are taking place.
Although the official celebrations for Songkran are between 13th and 15th April, which are also given as national holidays, many Thai people will take off the entire week. A big feature of the celebrations of Songkran is water. Thai people splash it at one another to symbolise washing off the misfortunes of last year and welcoming in the New Year with a fresh start. It is a happy coincidence that this is actually the hottest time of the year in Thailand and this symbolic activity provides a welcome cooling relief. More polite Thai tradition see people pouring bowls of scented-water over their family members or close friends and neighbours. However, if you are visiting Thailand and want to take part in this tradition, remember it is not advised to splash water at monks, the elderly or young babies.
Other traditions that take place during this time include visiting temples and cleaning one’s house. eSense Translations have written previously about the Chinese New Year celebrations and as you can see, many cultures, including our own Western traditions, share similarities in their own New Year celebrations.
For Thai people, family is a very important part of their way of living and great respect is given to their elders. The first day of Songkran is officially National Elderly Day and a ritual known as Rod Nam Dum Hua, where younger members of the family pour water into the palms of the elderly as a sign of humility and to request blessings, is performed. During this day, many cities also offer mass alm giving events. The second day of Songkran also recognises the importance of family and is named as such (National Family Day). After a visit to the temple, making merit through giving alms to the monks and pouring scented water over Buddha images, families will enjoy spending the rest of this day together.
The Thai way of life is filled with making merit (doing good things), such as giving alms, maintaining religious commandments and praying. They believe that through doing good in this way, they will enjoy peace and happiness. Gaining merit will also enable them to overcome obstacles in the future and, they believe, will help them on their journey to heaven.
Having visited Thailand myself and also having connections who live there, my perception of Thai people is that they are of a very kind and generous nature and also very modest and humble in their ways. Tradition is still very present in the country, alongside all the conveniences of modern life and perhaps this helps keeps them grounded, joyful and thankful of their blessings. Songkran is a great example of how the Thai values of family, joy for life and tradition all come together to make for a great celebration.
By Lorna Paice