The traditional Thai New Year
Songkran, otherwise known as the Water Festival, is the traditional Thai New Year that takes place on the 13th of April and last for about three days. In the Buddhist calendar this correlates with the beginning of the Lunar Year. As it is Thai New Year, the festival is celebrated all over the country, and in Chiang Mai it attracts multiple thousands of people, Thais as well as foreigners.
The underlying traditions of celebrating Songkran
Traditionally on the morning of the first day, Thai people will say farewell to the last day of the year and dismiss bad luck and evil. In Chiang Mai around the Three Kings Monument and Wat Phra Singh one can attend a bathing rite of the Lord Buddha and join an impressive procession to bring sand to the the temple. In the evening time, there will be traditional Lanna-style dance performances and the Miss and Mister Songkran contests.
April 13th is considered to be the day of the elderly, so on this occasion local people show their appreciation for the senior members among them. Another important aspect of this first day is that Thai people clean their houses in preparation of the beginning of a new year. The next day, April 14th, is typically dedicated to celebrate with the family. Many Buddhists will spend time at the temple this day.
Some locals will show their skills in building sand cheddis, these are pagodas resembling Buddhist temples. And the last day of the celebration, April 15th, symbolizes the welcoming of the rain to come. In order to have a good rice harvest the next season, lots of rain is needed indeed. Plenty of offerings are given at temples to set off the new year.
Thai New Year is also the biggest water battle in the world
But nowadays what started out as a blessing with the use of sprinkling water upon your loved ones to wash away bad luck and to wish them a happy new year, has escalated in the biggest water fight of the world! No matter where you go, you will get wet. So prepare yourself and protect your mobile phones and anything that is not supposed to get wet, put on your flowery shirts, arm yourself with the biggest water gun you can find and join the crowd for 3 days of amazing hot, chilling and soaking wet fun!
Unfortunately celebrating Thai New Year also brings dangers and annoyances. Due to a lack of rain over a long period of time, the roads that are suddenly getting soaked with water on the first day of Songkran, are comparable to an ice-skate rink which makes driving a motorbike extremely dangerous, especially when you get targeted by 20 liters of ice cold water getting splashed over you. Also beware of drunk drivers, especially during night time. Every year the Thai government warns about the risks of drinking an driving.
Enjoy this unique water festival
Without a doubt the Songkran festival in Chiang Mai is incomparable to any other festival with exception of maybe carnival in Rio or Mardy Gras in New-Orleans, I’ve been to the latter and it was pretty crazy as well, but Songkran, especially in Chiang Mai can easily compete with them, so join the amazing, wet and colorful crowd for three days of unforgettable fun, water and dance.
Sawasdee Pee Mai! Happy Thai New Year!