Songkran Festival in Chiang Rai is undoubtedly the most festive and celebrated event of the year in Thailand. Songkran marks the Thai New Year (Thai Lunar Calendar year) and is the biggest and most fun-filled time of the year.
Songkran (Song Kran) is an important holiday for Thai people, the large majority of whom are practicing Buddhists. It is a time to reunite with their families, make merits in temples, visit and show their respect to older folks and perhaps above all, it is a time to get soaked up and cooled down in the Songkran ‘Water Fight’ that takes place on just about every street in this country during this hottest month of the year.
Since Thai people celebrate the Thai New Year so vigorously, this Songkran event can be extended into a weekend and is easily the longest holiday in Thailand. This extended period often signals a return to home provinces, time for family get-togethers, serious merit making, and massive water splashing.
Although the Water Festival is supposed to start in early April, Thai people are very zealous about this festival, so much that they may begin throwing water a few days before the official date. This is particularly true in Chiang Rai and other northern areas; so do not get frustrated if a Thai person approaches you with a bucket of water ready to soak you up – this is all part of the fun so enjoy it!
Traditionally on the first day of the Songkran festival, Thai people will go as a family to their temple in the early morning. Typically people will be well dressed and equipped with their family’s specialty dishes to offer to monks. After the service at the temple is through, Thai people will spend time with their family and extended family – this can be very much like a yearly family reunion. In some areas, Thai people will go to a certain pagoda with scented water to spray and bath on the pagoda and Buddha images for good lucks and merits
The second day of the Songkran Festival is called “Wan Nao” or “Preparation Day” and is considered to be the Thai New Year’s Eve. It is traditionally believed that one should refrain from cursing, acting improperly or committing any malicious deed on the Wan Nao. Also, it is considered lucky to clean out the house and get rid of unwanted junk on this day.
Last Day of Songkran
On the last day of the Songkran Festival or the Thai New Year (Wan Phaya Wan), Thai people will visit their elder relatives and perform a ‘Dam Hua” ceremony or gently pouring scented water on the elder’s hands, which is believed to show respect and love to them. This belief gives birth to how Thai people used to gently ‘sprinkling’ water on each other in the traditional Songkran Festival but in the modern times, the gentle pouring of water has evolved into the somewhat crazy water fight. Songkran has therefore become well-known as the time that Thai people spray and splash water at one another and have fun with no reservation.
If you are a tourist at this time of year, be prepared to join-in and take part in the world’s biggest water fight!!