Last weekend in Thailand was celebrated the Songkran festival (more precisely from 13 to 15 April). This traditional New Year’s Day, coinciding with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia, is a national holiday since 1940, and the occasion to carry on several traditions.
- Soundtrack of the report
- Traditional Thai Songkran song
One year ago, I was lucky to experience these traditions with my Thai family (I am half-Thai) for the first time, with Ben (from Hejorama).
Rod Nam Dam Hua ceremony & Flower shirts
When we woke up at 7 o’clock in the morning to celebrate this first day of Songkran, we were surprised to find flower shirts on our beds, and a traditional Thai scarf from the North for Ben. This is one of the traditions for this New Year celebration in this country; a lot of Thai people are wearing colourful flower shirts. My family gave us these presents, and taught Ben how to fasten his scarf has a belt (in a very special way). We were ready to start the day, in a Thai style!
After a short breakfast, we joined all my family (my mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmother) to celebrate the Rod Nam Dam Huam ceremony at one hour from Bangkok. This ceremony – that usually takes place on the first day of the coming year – is very important in Thailand. Most Thai people go back to their hometown to visit elders (including family members, friends, monks), in order to apologize for all the bad deeds they have done to them, either intentionally or unintentionally, to show their gratitude and respect. In this way, Ben and I paid respect to my grandmother, and after having let flow water on statues of Buddha, we knelt in front of her, in silence, for a very intense and emotional moment. We had to put water on her hands, and to join hands for a prayer. She wished us the best for the next year, and a lot of travels.
Pickup trucks & Water
It was then time to party! My uncle took us in the back of his pickup. There already were big empty plastic trashcans, with plastic saucepans. We filled the cans with water, and decided to take the road, to participate to the most popular celebration of Songkran: throw water upon others.
Happy New Year
There were so many people on the road, that my uncle has to drive very slowly. We started to throw water upon our “neighbours”, people in the other pickup and along the road. As a lot of people, we stopped at an “ice station”, to get huge ice blocks that we added in our trashcans filled by water. A way to refresh us but also people in the streets!
Sometimes, some people got on the rear of our pickup. They splashed us with their water guns, or softly put beige colored talc on our cheeks, as a blessing for the New Year. We also saw fire fighters with their fire engine, throwing huge water squirt with their fire hose.
The atmosphere, in this area (about an hour from Bangkok) was very friendly. People danced in the streets, laughed, talked with strangers. Everything under a warm heat, but also under refreshing water. This first day of Songkran is one of my best souvenirs from my last trip to Thailand.
Monks & Craziness of Bangkok
The second day of Songkran, we started the day visiting and paying respect to the monks in a “wat”, a Buddhist temple. This is an important tradition for Thai people, and my family wanted to share this moment with me.
We knelt in front of a monk (wearing Rayban sunglasses and drinking a kind of Starbucks ice coffee!) with several families, and my family asked him how would be my future, my life. After telling me, with a smile, that I seemed to be an obstinate girl, he finally told me that my future would be in “the North”, not in Thailand…
After this touching morning, we went to Bangkok, direction Silom Road. There, hundreds – even thousands – locals and foreigners celebrated the New Year in a crazy way, with water pistols, hoses, foam, and plenty of buckets of water. The atmosphere were totally different, people were more excited. We bought a Spongebob water gun (you can find hundreds different kinds of water pistols in the streets of Bangkok), and joined the crowd. The first hours were crazy, but I have to admit that at the end, I was very tired.
It’s very difficult to escape this craziness with so many people around you. And with hands that get lost (girls, be careful), talc in your eyes because of young people who like to give you a slap instead of softly put talc on your cheeks… I think that people are less respectful in Bangkok than in the countryside.
Video found on youtube, by Manimulator. It’s pretty much like that :)
We didn’t have the chance to enjoy Songkran festival in Chiang Mai, but this is one of the most famous Songkran celebrations. We arrived a day later, and saw colourful flags around the temples.
Indeed, in northern Thailand, people may carry handfuls of sand to their neighborhood monastery in order to recompense the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the rest of the year. The sand is then sculpted into stupa-shaped piles and decorated with colorful flags.
If you have more stories to tell us about Songkran in Chiang Mai, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments below!