April is here and we will soon experience my favorite holiday, Songkran. Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year which is celebrated, just a handful of weeks after January 1st, from April 13th to April 15th.
On the outside, it appears to be just another countrywide water fight. Colorfully clothed children, armed with neon-colored water cannons smiling as they pummel unknowing passers by with streams of ice-cold water. Pickup trucks idling down the road equipped with multiple water sources and a small brigade in the bed barely visible through the cloudy mist of flying water droplets and clouds of mentholated powder. Dousing and being doused by everyone and everything that comes in your path is a welcome relief to the 40 degree heat that Thailand normally experiences at what is historically the hottest time of the year.
But there’s another side that is not often seen by most. Traditionally, Songkran is a very sacred holiday for the Thai people who take the well-earned time off to visit family and friends and pay respect to elders. Many Thais may also go to a wat, or Thai temple, to pray and give offerings to the monks. Buddha images are bathed in a ritualistic ceremony as a symbol of purification. In the past, young people helped their elders to take a bath and changed their old clothes as an act of respect. Nowadays, this practice has since been changed to sprinkling fragrant water into the palms of older people and usually gifts of towel and bathing products are presented. Religious services are held in memory of the deceased at the foot of sacred fig trees. Many Thais also make a point promise to do good deeds and refrain from doing bad ones.
Songkran, like its western equivalent, is a time to make resolutions, a time for cleansing and a time for renewal. The water is a symbol for washing all of the bad things away. Everything associated with unluckiness from the year before is thrown away in anticipation of better luck during the new year.
Patong, Phuket is one of the most exhilarating places to experience the Thai New Year. Patong Language School will be closed during this incredible holiday from April 11th to April 17th and we will resume operations on April 18th.