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It’s that time again, as Thais all around the country gear up for the most important holiday. Songkran (สงกรานต์ sǒng graan) is a 3-day festival taking place from April 13-15 that rings in the traditional Thai New Year. There are quite a few customs associated with the holiday, including the epic water fights that take place on the last day. Let’s take a closer look at this special time as we learn all about Songkran.
Songkran is a national holiday, with banks, offices, schools and shops closing all across the country. Bangkok nearly empties as people return to their hometown to be with family. On the first day, young people all over the country will visit their elders to pay their respects and ask for blessings in the New Year. In this ritual known as Rot Nam Dam Hua (รดน้ำดำหัว rót nám dam hǔa), the young people will also pour fragrant water into the palms of their elders. In some towns and cities, you can also see a parade on the first day of the festivities.
The next day, most people will pay a visit to their local temple to make merit by giving alms to the monks. There will also be a bathing the Buddha ceremony, or song nam pra (สรงน้ำพระ sǒng nám prá) in Thai. This can be done both at a temple and at home – basically wherever there is a Buddha image. The second day of the New Year is also National Family Day in Thailand. Similar to Christmas in the West and Spring Festival in China, Songkran is a time for family reunions.
There’s not much to set the third day apart from the first two (temple visits, making merit, gathering with family members), so let’s talk about the most famous aspect of Songkran – the epic water fights. Having visited elders and washed the Buddha, the last day is time for fun. People line the streets with buckets, hoses, and squirt guns – anything that can be used to soak passersby. Aside from the obvious relief water provides from the intense heat of April in Thailand, this is also symbolic of washing away any misfortunes from the past year.
Here’s some useful Thai vocabulary for the big holiday:
Thai New Year
bpee mài tai
go to the temple
bathe the Buddha
sŏng náam prá
kam uay pon
water sprinkling blessing
rót náam dam húua
National Family Day
วัน ครอบ ครัวแห่งชาติ
wan krôp krua hàeng châat
bpeun chèet nám
Happy New Year
sùk-kà-săn wan bpee mài
Wish you to be happy
kŏr hâi mee kwaam sùk
Wish you to be healthy
kŏr hâi sùk-kà-pâap kăeng raeng
Learn all about Songkran in this great video from Amazing Thailand.
Travel in Two’s has an awesome highlight reel of Songkran ’16 in Bangkok.
Songkran on Ko Pha-Ngan, brought to you by yours truly.
Learn more about the holiday and practice some vocabulary in Learn Thai by Ben’s video.
Practice your Thai reading and listening in this language-heavy video from ThaiPod101.