Thai New Year is now celebrated 13-15th April each year and in modern days has become quite a fun spectacle during the hottest month of the year, with visitors flocking to the streets to be involved in the 3 day mass water fight.
The dates used to be dependent upon the lunar calendar and it was a much more sober celebration. Originally one would sprinkle water over family members and elders out of respect to seek good fortune and as a symbol of cleansing and of renewal whilst uttering good wishes for the New Year ahead.
The event paid homage to beloved Buddah and many still do provide an offering of water scented with jasmine flower petals to statues and images of Buddah at home or in local temples. Offerings to the Monks are also made.
Another tradition of Songkran is the ritual of the tying of strings. This involves tying strings around the wrists of others and expressing good wishes for the New Year. They will approach with a smile and hold out the string. The person receiving the string accepts by holding their arm outstretched with the under side of the wrist facing upward. A person could have many strings on each wrist from different people and these are to be left on until they fall off of their own accord.
‘As part of the water sprinkling, water splashing and string tying rites, you may also encounter a person with a small silver bowl filled with a white powder or pasty substance. This is one of the oldest Songkran traditions. The white paste is a sign of protection and promises to ward off evil. The person with the paste is often older and he or she applies the paste to various parts of the face, neck and torso of others. One is expected to leave this paste on until it washes off of its own accord, and while there is a tendency to shy away from this paste because it looks like it might ruin the clothes, it is water soluble and will not harm materials.’
If you are lucky enough to be in Thailand during the New Year celebrations, enjoy them and respect them. If you want to get involved, always use fresh, clean water and follow the lead from the locals. Click on the images to see the photos in full.