New Year in Thailand: Songkran

New Year in Thailand: Songkran

New Year in Thailand is greated with a splash! It is also called the "water festival" as public water fights are enjoyed throughout the country. Water is believed to clean and wash away any sorrows from the previous year. People are encouraged to throw water on each other, and it often becomes a nationwide free-for-all!

The origins of Thai New Year combine Buddhist beliefs, ancient astrology, and the solar calendar. Songkran means the shift of the sun from one side of the zodiac to the other. The holiday is celebrated when the sun moves from Pisces to Aries, beginning a new astrological year.

Songkran consists of four days:

1. The first day is called Wan Sungkharn Long. On this day, houses are cleaned and swept.

2. The second day is called Wan Nao. On this day, food is prepared to be offered to monks the next day.

3. The third day is New Year's Day, or Wan Payawan. This day is celebrated by visiting the temple, presenting food and clothing to the monks, bathing the Buddha image with jasmine-scented water, and taking part in one of the many rituals believed to bring good luck.

4. The fourth and last day is called Wan Parg-bpee. On this day, repect is paid to ancestors and elders. Water is gently poured over the hands or shoulders of an elder while they recite blessings and good wishes for the new year.

Songkran festivals are also held in countries that neighbor Thailand, such as Burma, Laos, and Cambodia.

Author: Heather Clydesdale Photo: Lee LeFever/Flickr