Thai people across the country are celebrating the Songkran Festival, the traditional Thai New Year, which is sometimes referred to as the “Water Festival” among foreigners.
The festival is a time when Thais splash water over friends and other people to give them a New Year blessing. It is also a great time to experience distinctive cultural activities.
Songkran is an occasion for family reunions, as well, when all the family members living far from their hometowns visit their families. It is sometimes compared to the Indian Holy Festival, the Chinese Ching Ming, and the Christian festival of Easter. So it is the time of love and care within the family.
The Songkran holiday 2013 is set from 12 to 16 April, with the highlight of the celebration between 13 and 15 April. During the festival, people perform a religious ceremony in memory of their ancestors. Many of them go to the temple and heap up sand into mounds in temple compounds. Bringing sand to a temple is considered a great merit and is popularly practiced in northern Thailand.
Other activities include a thorough house cleaning, sprinkling of Buddha images with scented water, merit-making ceremonies, the release of caged birds and fish, pilgrimages to holy shrines, parades, dancing, and traditional Thai games.
On this occasion, young people pour lustral water onto the palms of their elders as a gesture of respect and present them with gifts. The first day of Songkran, 13 April, is also observed as the National Day for Older Persons.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is organizing Songkran celebration between 12 and 15 April at the Lan Khon Mueang plaza in front of the City Hall. From 4:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day during the period, the celebration features cultural performances, such as the khon masked drama, hun lakhon lek, or marionettes, an exhibition on the Songkran festival, and a bazaar of products from 50 districts of Bangkok.
In Chiang Mai, a key area of celebration, various activities are scheduled for 12-17 April at Chiang Mai Night Safari, with an emphasis on northern traditions. An elephant show is among the activities, which also include games and folk performances.
Thailand abounds in traditions and festivals. The event that may reflect “Thainess” the most is Songkran. It is the country’s merriest festival and is widely observed across the nation. The water-splashing, the highlight of the event, has made the festival famous around the world. It is done to ensure that there will be an abundance of rain for the coming rice-planting season, as well.
The Government is stepping up a road safety campaign between 11 and 17 April 2013, the period of Songkran celebration, in order to reduce road accidents. More than 10,000 hospitals, under the Ministry of Public Health, were told to be alert in case of emergency. Controls on drunk-driving and alcohol consumption have been emphasized, as part of the campaign.