Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Songkran: Thailand Water Festival.

Songkran means 'astrological passage' and is the event which announces the new Thailand year. In the modern calendar it is celebrated every year from 13-15 april. Interestingly enough these three days are common new year starters in the Southeast Asia.

A Brief History:

The date of the festival was originally set by astrological calculation, but it is now fixed. Until 1888 the Thai New Year was the beginning of the year in Thailand; thereafter 1 April was used until 1940. 1 January is now the beginning of the year. The traditional Thai New Year has been a national holiday since then. Mostly this festival was celebrated in India and is thought to be originated from the Holi festival as previously in the 1900's color was used. It was just recently that water took over colors and it was given a separate identity by the Thailand people.

How is it celebrated:

The most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water. Thais roam the streets with containers of water or water guns (sometimes mixed with mentholated talc), or post themselves at the side of roads with a garden hose and drench each other and passersby. This, however, was not always the main activity of this festival. Songkran was traditionally a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends, neighbors, and monks.

Mostly Thai people have the pictures of monks and dummies in their homes which they consider a sign of good luck so on this very day, paying a visit to the monks and temples is also a common tradition. 

From where has it originated:

In the past when the monks used to wash the buddha dummies, the water which flowed afterwards was saved by some of them and they used to wash themselves with it, considering that it will help them earn a place in heaven and will wash away all their sins.  Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat. Nowadays, the emphasis is on fun and water-throwing rather than on the festival's spiritual and religious aspects, which sometimes prompts complaints from traditionalists.

Traditional Greeting:

The traditional greeting is "sa-wat-di pi mai"  basically "Happy New Year". Sawatdi is also used for "hello" or "goodbye". Pi and mai mean "year" and "new" respectively in Thai. Another greeting used is suk-san wan pi mai" , where suksan means "happy".

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