When I came to Thailand I had never heard of the festival Songkran. Shortly into my first week of teaching with Easter holidays approaching. I started to slowly hear more and more about this legendary celebration. I can only describe it a really good rumour that you bit by bit learn is true. Our Easter holiday we decided to stay and check out the craziness that is Songkran.
Songkran is a huge water gun fight and water festival that is celebrated all throughout Thailand. The official day of celebration is April 13 but festivities usually continue through 14-15 as well. Most everything in Thailand is closed during this holiday period. If you are planning on traveling anywhere during these few days make sure to wear clothes for getting wet.
Songkran is Thailands New years festival. The name literally means a “transformation of time”. It is derived from the Sanskrit word “samkranti”. It is also related and closely linked to the Hindu/Buddhist solar calendar.
The symbolism of water in this festival is to wash away one’s sins and bad luck that may have accumulated throughout the year. Typically locals will go to the temples and give food to the monks, while also leaving offerings for their ancestors. Generally, people will dress up in bright clothing to bring in the New Year. Another tradition depending on the area that you are in is to light firecrackers to repel bad luck. Devout Buddhists will gently pour scented water over Buddha statues. This tradition is believed to bring good fortune throughout the year.
Each Day has a meaning
- Day 1 is elder day and Thais will often respectfully wash the hands and feet of their elders and parents. The cleansing of their hands and feet is a way for the younger generations to show humility and ask for blessings for the next year.
- Day 2 is the official family day. This day is dedicated to families and families will perform special traditions and rites including cleaning their house to bring in a great new year.
So about that Water Festival….
Basically, for all the nonlocals Songkran is a huge squirt gun fight. From the moment you step outside, prepare to be blasted!!
Your List for Songkran:
In order to prepare for this festival there are some things you should have:
- Squirt gun and back up gun.
- If you can’t get a squirt gun a hose will suffice.
- Lacking all the above, which is highly unlikely, team up some locals who have buckets of water waiting to splash and squirt everyone. Just bring a cup and prepare to offer the requisite offering of being doused then join their team.
- Make sure to leave all things that can’t be wet at home (If people look like they don’t want to be wet that’s when everyone attacks you.)
- Have a waterproof phone or phone case to take some amazing photos.
- Lather up on sunscreen and water clothes. You are on your way to having a great Songkran!
Side note: Even if you are riding a motorbike or a car people may pull you over or stop you to get you wet so don’t expect to escape that way. 😉
My experience with Songkran
The morning started off to a stupendous start. A new roommate at the hostel came upstairs sopping wet looking slightly dazed. Everyone in our dorm immediately started asking questions. “What’s it like out there?” “Did you know it was Songkran?” A water drenched veteran, he straightened his shoulders, stuck out his chin, and whispered, “No one is safe. Especially on a motorbike. Prepare to get soaked!” That about sums up the day quite nicely.
On the Street
Taylor, my girlfriend, and I set out armed with squirt guns. She was smart and bought a super soaker. I had two tiny guns. They reminded me of the guns from the cartoon space alien from Bugs Bunny. My guns were so small I felt the need to add sound effects so whenever I fired my weapons, I made the required “Pew, Pew” sound to strike terror into my victims.
As soon as we stepped outside it was mayhem on the streets (fun mayhem though).
There was a parade going down our street filled with people in trucks and small processions some with traditional clothing playing festive music. People were sitting in the back of trucks ready to assault any passerby or onlooker on the street with a cold splash of water from their ice buckets. (When I was first told about Songkran I was warned about the ice water blasters, but I didn’t take them seriously. I’m here to tell you that ice water is cold! Especially since the weather is hot that blast of cold water is shocking almost painful. Avoid the cool water it’s not fun!) Back to the parade, everyone in Thailand is out on the streets hoses at the ready to spray passing cars, motorbikes, and people on the street.
As we walked through the streets having mini squirt gun fights, I was surprised to see people actually out in the street physically stopping cars and motorbikest in order to put powder on faces and to splash them with water. Nobody was safe. We took ourselves out for a jaunt around the block squirt guns in hand. It was a blast we squirted everyone. I even had someone attempt to douse me with a garbage can full of water. I also really enjoyed this festival because it was a warm and fun way to interact with the Thai locals without having to worry about a language barrier. After all, someone approaching you with a squirt gun is pretty universal for “Game on!”
Songkran is an amazing festival that you HAVE to take part in! Be careful driving or being on a motorbike. I would recommend staying off the roads for the days of the holiday. Bring your super soaker and swimsuit because this holiday is amazing!! Songkran might just become your new favourite holiday. If you visit Songkran or have any questions feel free to send us a message here.