It’s April in Bangkok. It’s hot, in fact, it’s the hottest month of the year. To Thai’s April means one thing and that’s Songkran! Songkran 2016 in Bangkok will once again be the highlight of the year which celebrates the Thai New Year.
Thai’s love to have fun, it is a big part of Thai culture, and having fun amidst scorching heat is no exception. The entire country will be ready for the world’s biggest water fight, there will be street parties that last nearly a week.
Although big shopping malls will be open, most of the other businesses in Bangkok will completely shut down. This includes, offices, banks and some smaller businesses too. A lot of Bangkokians will leave the city and visit their hometowns, their relatives and families during this period. It is one of the quietest times of year in Bangkok but can also be a great time to visit for a tourist.
The biggest and most famous water fight for tourists is located in Silom where hundreds of people dress in colourful costumes, take out their water guns and experience a water fight like they have never done before. Locals that stay around in Bangkok will also join in the fun, as well as water, power and flour may be put on your face to give good luck.
The whole thing officially takes place between 13th and 15th April, but it is not unknown for the festival to last the entire week. In fact, with a holiday on 6th April, many people just need to take a few days holiday to enjoy almost 2 weeks off work.
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Songkran is very much a time for family in most Thai households. Thai’s will go to their hometown or visit their relatives where big get togethers take place for the entire extended family. Thai’s will visit the temple, it is also a time for the annual house cleaning. There are many traditions steeped in Songkran that many will still follow. On the first day it is traditional to perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual. This involved pouring water smelling of perfume into the palms of elders’ by younger members of the family. This is a gesture to ask for their blessings and to show humility. The first day of Songkran is officiallyl National Elderly Day.
The second day is all about families. Officially known as the National Family Day, the second day of Songkran is a time when families look to each other for strength and luck. The whole family will wake up early and give alms to the monks, they will then spend the rest of the day sharing quality family time together. An important religious ritual on Songkran is ‘Bathing the Buddha image’, in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over Buddha statues both at the temple and at home. More religious Thais would engage themselves in Buddhist ceremonies and merit-making activities throughout the holidays.
So where does the water fight come from? Well it’s not just a new twist on the tradition of Bathing the Buddha, it also has meaning behind it. To symbolically spray each other with water you are helping to wash off all the negativity and bad luck you may have received the past year and you are looking to the new year with new hope.
Traditionally, Thais would politely pour a bowl of water on members of the family, their close friends and neighbours. As Songkran has taken a more festive note, a bowl becomes a bucket, garden hose and water guns, and the spirit of holiday merriment is shared amongst all town residents and tourists alike.