13-15 April


History of Songkran

Songkran is the annual celebration of Thailand signalling the start of Thai New Year which takes place in mid April. The word Songkran means change or movement, and refers to the changing of seasons, the movement of the position of the sun in the sky and the vernal equinox. Songkran is influenced, both in customs and its celebration of season, by Indian and Chinese cultures, as well as Buddhist traditions. It is thought to have been celebrated in Thailand since at least the 13th Century.

Marking the beginning of the traditional Thai calendar, it is historically celebrated by the cleaning of the house and home to remove any negative influences from the previous year and to ensure good luck for the year to come. Respect and homage is also paid to ancestors and elders of the family and community. This is represented through water blessings, where water is poured over the image of Buddha and onto the hands of elders. This tradition of using water to pay respect has evolved over time to celebratory water fights all over Thailand.

Religion and Ceremonies

The word Songkran translates to ‘move into’. It embodies the Thai concept of Sanook or ‘fun’. There are also deeper traditional celebrations and rituals. Water plays a central role in the rituals as it represents cleansing and purification and is a symbol of renewal. A spring clean of home and temples is completed before the beginning of the festival.

Wan Payawan is one of the main rituals of the festival, which involves sprinkling lustral water over Buddha statues and images. This custom is a part of the cleaning aspect of Songkran, and occurs on the third day, but can also be seen in the lead up to the festival.The 'blessed' water used to clean the Buddha images is then used to bless other people and bring good fortune.

Family also plays an important part of Songkran. It is a time where family members come together to show appreciation, love and respect to each other as well as making merit and paying homage to their ancestors.

Having chalk placed on your face is a custom originating from the chalk used by monks to mark blessings. This combination of water and powder is almost identical to the celebrations of Holi. It is thought that the customs originated in India, as Songkran is celebrated more widely and longer in the Northern Thailand.

The tradition of honouring the elders is implemented by younger members of society to older members. Traditionally, this involves gently pouring scented water over the shoulders and down the back of the elders. This has been simplified to sprinkling water over their hands in order to exchange a blessing to the younger.