Songkran – The Water Festival

Written by admin on January 7th, 2014. Posted in Thailand Traditional Festivals

Throughout the kingdom, Thais, expatriate residents and foreign visitors joined Songkran (traditional Thai New Year) celebrations held nationwide from 13 to 15 April every year. Good-natured fun permeated the holiday season. Across the country, it was a time for religious ceremonies and merit-making; for laughter, entertainment and good times shared with family and friends; and, of course, for water splashing — lots of it.

While better known for its good-spirited water-splashing, meaningful aspects of this time-honoured tradition are still observed in their original form.

SongKarn‘Songkran’, a word of Sanskrit origin, translates as ‘move into’; Songkran marks the end of a 12-month cycle and the beginning of a new solar year. The underlying significance of Songkran is the process of cleansing and purification — the purging of all ills, misfortune and evil, and starting the New Year afresh with everything that is good and pure. Water is symbolic of the cleaning process and signifies purity.

Songkran is also a time for reunions when family ties are renewed. Family members and friends come together to celebrate Songkran. Religious ceremonies and folk rituals associated with Songkran are principally performed to bring good luck and prosperity.

The meaningful aspects of Songkran expressed through various ceremonies and rituals are varied and culturally rich. Songkran activities in various locations around the kingdom uniquely reflect local beliefs and practices. Each offers varying elements of interest.

Ceremonies performed on April 13, the first day of Songkran, mark the end of an era. To ‘send off’ the outgoing year, merit-making rituals are performed and offerings are made to Buddhist monks. Spring-cleaning and personal cleansing are also part of this ‘renewal’ process. Later in the day, Buddha images are bathed with scented lustral water as gestures of respect. Religious ceremonies include a procession of Buddha images through city streets, affording local residents the opportunity to participate in the bathing rites. An annual ‘Songkran Queen’ parade and floral floats form part of popular festivities staged to greet the traditional Thai New Year.

ParadeSongkran is also a time for thanksgiving. Individuals reflect upon the many acts of kindness and thoughtfulness each has personally experienced and reciprocate by expressing gratitude. Thanksgiving is demonstrated in ceremonial aspects such as Songkran’s bathing ritual when scented lustral water is poured over Buddha statues and the hands of elders and respected individuals.

The ritual that accompanies this show of respect is highly elaborate. Deep respect and reverence are shown to the highest institution of the Kingdom — the monarchy and members of the royal family — as well as learned individuals and elders recognised for their worldly experience and wisdom. This gesture of respect includes a colourful procession characterised by song, dance and festive fun. Younger folks show their respect and seek the blessings of elders and individuals of seniority by making offerings. The seeking of their blessing or forgiveness for past wrong-doing is also implied.

Acts of kindness and generosity towards others are reflected in the preparation, exchange and sharing of food and desserts by members of the community. Sprinkling water on each other is a gesture of hospitality as individuals attempt to cool each other off in the intense summer heat.



Community spirit is reflected in activities such as the spring-cleaning of temples, the presentation of merit-making offerings to monks, bathing rituals during which Buddha statues are bathed with scented lustral water or poured over the hands of monks, the construction of sand stupas and the decoration or beautification of temple environs. It is also believed that through acts of merit-making, loved ones, long-departed, are endowed with blessings and good fortune. Members of the family and community share in the fun, spreading happiness and goodwill to all.

RatchadamnernThe ceremonial and ritual aspects of Songkran concluded, friendly water-splashing ensues. After dark, celebrations feature various performances and forms of entertainment. The ‘ram wong’ circle dance, a traditional Thai folk dance, enables everyone to join in the fun.

Songkran embodies the essential caring and unity at the core of Thai society. These are the enduring qualities that make Thailand forever a warm and welcoming destination.