Songkran in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Culture | Thai New Year
The most amazingly wild, wet and sanook of all Thailand's festivals is Songkran, which starts on April 13 every year and lasts for three wild, wet, and extremely fun days.
To the Thai people, this festival is one of religious significance, but it is always one of intense water-throwing as well. Everyone gets soaking wet during Songkran, and since it takes place at the height of the hot season, the custom is quite refreshing.
The word "Songkran" comes from Sanskrit, and means the beginning of the new Solar Year.
In some ways, Songkran resembles the Christian holiday of Easter. Young and old dress in new clothing and visit their temple, where they offer food to the monks. It is a day of celebration as well as a feast day for the monks, and music is often played as a backdrop to the festivities.
Children enjoy standing by the roadside and splashing whatever vehicles or people pass by.
On the eve of Songkran Day, housewives give their homes a thorough cleaning. Worn-out clothing, household effects and rubbish are burned in the religious belief that anything old or useless must be thrown away or it will bring bad luck to the owner.
During the afternoon of the 13th, Buddha images are bathed as part of the ceremony. Young people pour scented water into the hands of elders and parents as a mark of respect while seeking the blessing of the older people. In ancient times, old people were actually given a bath and clothed in new apparel presented by the young people as a mark of respect for the New Year.
Another unique Songkran custom is the releasing of live birds and fish purchased in markets. It is believed that great merit is gained through this act.
In Paklat, Phra Padaeng, near Bangkok, every year beautiful women in traditional dress form a procession and carry fish bowls to the river, where the fish are released. Naturally, young men also enjoy this annual excursion.
The whole country usually celebrates Songkran, but the merriest festivities always take place in Chiang Mai. As a result, Thailand's second largest city is always crowded with revellers, and visitors wishing to experience the fun of a Chiang Mai Songkran must make arrangements months in advance.
Last Updated: 11 Mar 2008