FOUR THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT SONGKRAN FESTIVAL, THE THAI NEW YEAR:
Started from the Buddha now we’re here:
Based on the astral calendar, Songkran starts on April 13 and lasts until the 15th. The traditional Songkran festival started with the ritual of cleaning images and statues of Buddha with water (which the Thai still do in the early mornings, taking offerings to the temples). They sprinkle the water used to cleanse the Buddha on one another to bestow blessings, good luck, and to cleanse you physically and spiritually for the Thai New Year.
A Family Affair:
These traditions are still important today. Those who are able rise very early and go to a local temple to make offerings to the Buddhist monks and pour water over the Buddha statues. If they moved away from their childhood homes, most Thai adults will take extended trips to visit with family, and pay respect to their elders. Many families create their own celebrations and parties amongst themselves. In fact, the first day of Songkran is actually called Family Day and is set aside specifically for these gatherings.
Waterguns N’ Roses:
But the parties aren’t just at home. Today's version of Songkran goes way beyond the traditions that it’s rooted in. Imagine a raging New Years Eve party that lasted not just all night, but all day. What about two days? Heck, make it three. Now add water guns. You're starting to get an idea of what Songkran is like. A three-day, no holds barred, all ages water fight. Everyone takes off work and takes to the streets to throw water, blast music, and party.
Americans love a cleanse, and so do the Thai. It’s just that their version is way more fun. The Songkran party is not just a water fight. It hearkens back to how the holiday began: cleansing the Buddha with water. When someone blasts you with a water gun in the street it is actually a blessing and a wish for good luck. It’s considered a favor, because the water cleanses you. Everyone can start the Thai New Year with a clean slate (no dieting required).
TIPS TO PREPARE FOR THE (WATER) FIGHT OF YOUR LIFE:
Be mentally prepared: From the moment you step outside you are fair game. There is no "just getting your feet wet" transition. Just accept it, because you're an even bigger target if you're at all dry!
Protect yourself before you wreck yourself: Get a waterproof phone bag (all the shops along the street will sell them) and wear protective glasses or sunglasses. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes you won't slip in, because that would be embarrassing.
Remember It's for your own good: Even if you aren't in the mood to join in on the fights, remember that everyone dousing you with water is wishing you good luck and blessings in the new year. It's all in good fun.
Fight back: You can walk around unarmed just for the experience, but it's much more fun for everyone if you get involved. Grab an inexpensive water gun or bucket from a roadside stand! Most people will have trash cans full of water by their front doors that they'll be happy to share with you when you need to reload.
Strength in numbers: Walking around is a fun way to see how everyone is celebrating, but it's also cool to jump in on a group (even if you don't know anyone). Lots of people post up with friends or family in their doorways, at a bar, or on a certain street and are excited about newcomers. It's a great way to meet locals or fellow travelers.
Disclaimer: This is only what one traveler learned on her Songkran adventure and is by no means an exhaustive explanation of this incredible holiday. If you have anything to add or correct please share with the group by leaving a comment below. We love to learn!