2012 Songkran Water Festival
Songkran is derived from the Sanskrit word Sankranti meaning changing places or astrological passage. In Thai form, it is used to refer to the sun’s entry into the specific Zodiac sign of Aries (Ram). The full name is Maha or Major Songkran distinguishing it from others. However to the Thai people they simply refer to it as Songkran because it’s the only one they know and care about. Songkran is the Thai New Year, also known as the Thai Water Festival and is a fixed holiday on the Thai calendar. Songkran 2012 is coming up fast so if you're planning on going you should book your ticket to Thailand and make hotel reservations in Thailand soon to beat the tourist rush.
In Thailand, the Songkran festival is celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of April to commemorate the Thai New Year. Just as Chinese New Year is the most important holiday of the year to the Chinese, so Songkran is the most important Thai holiday, celebrated throughout the Kingdom from Chiang Mai in the North to Koh Samui in the South. Originally the dates of the festival varied as they were set by astrological calculations; today, the dates are fixed, though the holiday maybe celebrated for one or two days longer in some parts of Thailand. The Thai Songkran festival falls during the hottest part of the year, at the end of the dry season.
The Thai New Year festival is celebrated by visiting temples and family members. A major part of the celebration is the throwing of water over people. Not surprising considering it falls during the hottest month in the year. Water is thrown on anything that moves and is probably the highlight of the festival.
The Meaning of Songkran
Before the 2012 Songkran celebrations can begin, Thai people will clean their homes with the intention of getting rid of the previous year’s bad luck, and in preparation of receiving good luck in the New Year that is about to dawn. A lot of time is spent cooking rice and tasty Thai food and sweets in honor of the occasion. On the actual day, Thais go to the wat (Buddhist temples) to pray; give alms to the monks and cleanse images of Buddha with scented water sprinkled on the statues. The same scented water is poured over the shoulder of senior people as a mark of respect. This is a symbolic act to showcase the cleansing of mind, body and spirit, as well as to wash away the previous year’s sins and bad luck. The Thais also go visiting other family members who live away from them to show their respect.
The original intent of the Thai Songkran New Year festival was to pray, give alms and visit family. Today, water throwing has become the predominant focus of the festival and it is now known as the Songkran water festival. The youth throw water on literally anything that moves. To the older generations, the water throwing appears rude and a detraction from the spiritual and religious aspects of the festival. However, the water throwing is the most fun part of the festival and people use buckets, water balloons, water pistols and garden hoses to drench one another. Who can blame them when the temperatures are as high as 40 degrees or more!
Various other South Asian countries celebrate their own version of Songkran. It is celebrated in Laos, Cambodia, Burma, China, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Songkran is Thailand’s biggest festival, and for all the fun and festivity, one should not forget the religious aspects of this grand festival of Songkran. Think about visiting Thailand and celebrating Songkran 2012.