Thailand celebrates its New Year, more commonly known as the Songkran Festival from April 13-15. According to the Thai calendar, the Land of Smiles will welcome the year 2561, an annual festival that’s becoming increasingly popular with foreign tourist and a great reason to visit the country.
Although Thailand has now joined western tradition and celebrates the arrival of the New Year on December 31, it hasn’t given up on its own traditions. Crowds fill the streets all over the country for several days and the celebrations last for up to a week in some parts
The festival is known all over the world for its water parties in the streets, where everyone gets involved in the water fights. But for Thais, the Songkran is also a time for meeting with family and renewing family ties to honour the elderly through cultural ceremonies and ancestral rituals that reflect the essence of “Thainess”, which is the quality or state of being Thai.
During Songkran, the spirit of the Thai community is reflected in activities such as the purification and decoration of the temples, offerings to the monks, and the rituals of pouring perfumed lustral water on Buddha statues as a mark of respect. Another Songkran tradition is to show gratitude and respect to the elderly by pouring water on their hands.
Destinations to enjoy Songkran
The festival is celebrated all over Thailand from north to south and visitors can find different activities in all the cities, and in most resorts.
In the Rose of the North (Chiang Mai), the celebrations extend from Wednesday 12th to Sunday 15th of April. The Buddha images of the main monasteries are paraded on the first day to mark the start of a series of cultural celebrations, traditional shows, dances and games that fill the main point of the city like Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai Gate, and the area around the Ping River with colour and a lot of water.
From April 13-15, Ayutthaya hosts the festival in its Historical Park, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991. The main activity for the locals is to honour and purify the statues of Buddha and King Naresuan in the morning at the Vihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit temple. However, for tourists, the main activity is the water festival with elephants as it’s the only one in which they can participate.
Floral parades and decorated ox carts, beauty pageants, petanque competitions and Thai dance demonstrations and traditional shows are offered at Khon Khaen, in the Isan region, while in Kho Samui visitors can enjoy the traditional New Year at the beach.
And of course, in the country’s capital, Bangkok, the party is concentrated in two points extremely popular with tourists visiting the “City of the Angels”, Khao San Road and Silom Road are closed to traffic as they are the main settings for the world-famous water fights.