Posted by: kookkhu | April 4, 2009

Songkran Festival

One of the high spots of the Thai calendar is the annual New Year celebration, or Songkran, which falls on or around April 13, when the sun moves into Aries, and lasts for three days or more. The word ‘Songkran’ originates from the Sanskrit meaning ‘beginning of the solar year’. The holiday-loving Thais therefore get to celebrate New Year three times each year: the Western New Year on January 1, the Chinese New Year in February and the Thai New Year in April.
Traditionally, Thais visit temples at this time of year to offer food to the monks and to participate in bathing ceremonies for Buddha images. At home, young people pour scented water into the hands of their parents and elders as a mark of respect and to receive the blessing of the older folk.
Another custom is the releasing of small fish into rivers and canals. This merit-making act is thought to come from the old practice of collecting small fish from dried out pools, to keep and later release back into the wild.
These days, Songkran has turned into a water-throwing funfest, in which anyone and everyone is liable to get thoroughly drenched-a blessed relief in this, the hottest season of the year.
The water-throwing custom have come from the mythical belief that sea serpents or ‘naga’ bring on the rains by spouting water from the sea. Water throwing may therefore have been a rainmaking custom to guarantee ample water for next year’s crops.
soaking gangs at Chiang MaiSongkran is celebrated throughout Thailand but the wettest and wildest celebrations are at Chiang Mai in the North. Ambushers, armed with tubs of water and water pistols wait at street corners for the unsuspecting or cruise the streets in pick-ups looking for a victim or a rival gang to soak. This water throwing lasts for three whole days – and even longer in the adjacent countryside.
On the first day, firecrackers are let off at dawn and the people of Chiang Mai spring clean their houses. In the afternoon a parade of Buddha images from many Chiang Mai temples goes from the railway station to Wat Phra Singh. People toss lustral water scented with perfume and flowers to bathe the images as they pass along the streets.
On the second day there are no ceremonies but in the afternoon sand is placed in the temple compound as a symbolic return of the sand carried out on the soles of shoes and feet of the people. The sand is made into a small chedi for the next day.
The third day is the start of the New Year and early in the morning is a good time to visit the temples and watch people in traditional costume bringing offerings. Outside people place flags in the sand chedi as well as symbolic sticks of support under the Bo trees to bring good luck. In the afternoon the main government organizations hold a procession from the Yupparat School to honor the Chiang Mai governor at his residence by Nawarat Bridge.


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