Each year, from 13-15 April, Thailand celebrates Songkran, the Buddhist New Year festival. But this isn’t any ordinary New Year festival. You’ll still find classic celebrations and traditions like parades, concerts, fireworks, and parties… But you’ll also get to take part in a kingdom-wide water fight. On almost every street you’ll find people splashing each other with water, and it’s common to stay drenched whenever you step outside your house. This lively festival is an important part of Thailand’s cultural heritage and it’s also becoming more popular with tourists. To celebrate Songkran in 2023, we share six reasons why Songkran in Thailand is the best New Year’s festival.
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1. It’s a country-wide water fight
Songkran is the Buddhist New Year celebration in Thailand. It marks the beginning of the new solar year and is a time for renewal – and it’s also an epic water fight that kicks off all over the country! The most iconic part of the festival is water-throwing, with people splashing each other using buckets, water guns, balloons… Anything goes! The water-throwing symbolises the washing away of bad luck and the fresh start of the new year.
You’ll find one of the biggest celebrations in the country’s capital Bangkok. The famous Khao San Road is cordoned off to traffic and lined with people holding huge water guns and pressure hoses!
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2. It’s a beautiful blend of celebration and spirituality
Songkran isn’t just a water fight. It’s also a spiritual Buddhist holiday with ancient traditions. Songkran in Thai means to ‘move’ or ‘change place’ and is historically associated with the Water Festival. The water-throwing tradition originally began with locals collecting water poured over Buddha statues for cleaning. This water was then trickled over family members and elders as a blessing. Thai people believe that water is spiritually purifying and cleansing of sins and grievances from the past year.
Since then, this act of water purifying has evolved into a nationwide water fight, with just as much focus on merry-making as spirituality. While the locals love to get involved in the water throwing, they will also spend their Songkran visiting Wats (Buddhist temples) to offer alms and make merit. There’s also lots of cultural activities such as traditional music and dance performances.
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3. Everyone gets involved in Songkran in Thailand
The rule of thumb is if you don’t want to get wet – don’t go outside during Songkran! Everyone gets involved and you’re almost guaranteed to get doused in water just from walking down the street. Everyone from children, adults, the elderly, police, and monks get in on the fun, with everyone dancing and throwing water on the streets. There’s pumping music all around and the party goes from morning to night. You’ll also find the streets lined with stalls selling everything you need including water guns and mixing buckets of clay. The locals wipe clay or chalk on either cheek to mirror the act of a monk blessing. You’ll also hear everyone saying “Sa-wat-dee pi mai” meaning “Happy New Year”.
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4. Songkran happens in April
One of the top reasons why Songkran is the best New Year’s festival is because it happens in April. This just happens to be the hottest month of the year, with temperatures sitting around 35°C. With such sweltering temperatures, there’s no better time for a water fight and you’ll welcome the drenching whenever you step outside!
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5. Songkran celebrations last anywhere from three days to a week
While official Songkran celebrations usually kick off on 13 April and end on 15 April ( the day of the Thai New Year), the festivities can last up to a week around the country. The northern capital, Chiang Mai, hosts one of the biggest Songkran celebrations, with festivities usually spanning a week. One of the unique northern Thai traditions is to bring bags of sand to their local temple, to return the sand carried away on their feet throughout the past year. The sand is then sculpted into small stupas and pagodas and decorated with colourful flags.
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6. Songkran in Thailand is a ton of fun
Thailand’s Songkran festival is one of the most joyous New Year celebrations in the world. The whole country is bubbling with a cheerful, optimistic atmosphere, and you can’t help but get in on the merry-making – and throw a few buckets of water while you’re at it!
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Have you ever experienced Songkran in Thailand? Let us know in the comments below!