As another New Year celebration begins, get ready for sun, sand, water and years of tradition packed into three unforgettable days. It’s time for Songkran, the New Year festival in Thailand! There is so much to see and do: make sand pagodas, respectfully throw water, watch a parade, and see the crowning of the new Miss Songkran, to name a few. This year the celebrations begin on April 13.
To help ring in the Thai New Year, our friends at the Conrad Koh Samui are offering something special to BookThailandNow readers. In addition, we’re randomly giving away Thailand tote bags to people who tell us how they’re celebrating Songkran. Head over to TAT’s Facebook page for details (The contest is restricted to US residents only and will launch on April 16th).
Now on to some of my favorite festivals during Songkran…
A significant part of the festival is in Banglamphu in Bangkok, where the statue “Buddha – banglampu Phra Chanath” is taken to the Santi Chai Prakan Park to receive blessings and prayers from the public. Magnificent displays of Thai dance are also shown and food is given to monks. It was so nice to see these displays of respect and love; the atmosphere was very spiritual, communal and loving.
IN SAMUT PRAKAN PROVINCE
In Phra Pradeang, a ‘Raman’ celebration is held, including a unique parade and other festivities, one week after the start of the celebration. Locals in traditional Thai attire follow wagons covered in beautiful and elaborate flowers. The new Miss Songkran also makes an appearance to greet the public, and grace us with her beauty. Birds and fish are set free for good fortune and life longevity at Wat Prodket Chettharam. I could feel the fortune carried on the wings of the birds and the fins of the fish, adding longevity to my life and to the lives of all who participated.
In Chiang Mai, it is considered extremely bad luck to be impolite or rude on the 14th. Rudeness will cost you one whole year of bad luck! Better brush up on your ‘Please and Thank Yous’. The next day, locals wake up early and head to the temple to make merit, and listen to the monks’ sermons. Later, they go to the elders to give and receive blessing by pouring water into the elders’ hand. The following day, locals will pour water onto the hands of abbots from different temples. The last day, locals will literally brush themselves to symbolize brushing off bad luck.
In Sukhothai, the beautiful Miss Songkran heritage parade around Sukhothai city will be a great attraction. There are bathing monks and Mae Ya image, Thai traditional dance, Little Miss Songkran beauty pageant and old-day beautiful Thai ladies.
While in Phuket, I visited the temples in the morning and made merit. The temples were all beautiful. The Buddhas were purified by pouring water on the torsos of the statues and not the heads. Along Patong beach, images of Phra Phuttha Sihing Buddha are paraded in a procession.
If you would like to visit Ko Samui, it’s good to be aware that Ko Samui takes Songkran as “seriously” as the rest of Thailand – a deluge of good-spirited fun, best experienced up close, in person and without reservation. Songkran takes place in Samui’s hottest period. Hoses, buckets and full gallon drums are everywhere and everyone there feels the good, jovial spirits of this festival.
No matter the time of day or place, be prepared to get soaked. As a sign of respect and blessing, water is thrown around. Elders are blessed by pouring water into their hands, and in return they give blessing. For anyone under the age of 60, expect to get fully drenched. The minute I walked out anywhere, I was met with a great splash.
While the above are some of our favorite events, Songkran is celebrated all over Thailand in various ways. Wherever you go to celebrate Songkran, be sure to make merit in the morning and visit the temples to receive blessings and see the purification of the Buddha.
The Joyous Songkran Splendours, specially organized by the TAT and local organizations from the public and private sector, will take place in the following locations, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Krabi. For a full list, click here.
Each part of Thailand is unique in their customs and traditions for Songkran celebrations. All in all, the experience is very welcoming and fun. I couldn’t have been happier to be a part of the New Year festivities, and this is an experience everyone should try.