THAI CULTURE & LANGUAGE > Holidays & Festivals


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The Thai New Year falls in mid-April every year
It's known as the "Songkran", the water-splashing festival

In most provinces of Thailand the Songkran Festival will be celebrated from
April 13 to April 15
However, different regions have slightly different dates.
The  Pattaya Festival occurs just prior to Songkran Festival creating a celebrating which lasts for an entire week. 

   "Songkran"  (the "Water Festival" which is the celebration of the old  Thai New Year) and the "Pattaya Festival" merge to create a week of non-stop partying.  Some love it, and some hate it!  Nobody is neutral about it!    Girls smear your face with colored powder which makes your face glow in bar light.  Bars, clubs and restaurants put on special entertainments.  There is music, drinking, "carrying on", and more drinking practically 24 hours a day.  Opening Day ceremonies on 12 April include a parade along Beach Road.  Bar girls form all over the country converge on  Pattaya for the festival.  It is a total carnival and street-party lasting for a week or longer.

Hotel, restaurant and other prices increase to the "peak season rate" for the week, and then revert back after the festival.     
The festivities  begin  innocently enough  with people squirting each other with little squirt guns.  "Isn't that cute!" you might think at first.  In a short time, however,  the activity escalates to the level of pandemonium as power sprays and buckets of water (some of it purposefully chilled for greater effect!) are splashed on anything that moves in the streets.  Pick-up trucks with gangs of  (mostly) kids,  with hoses,sprayers, and 50 gallon drums of water cruise the streets looking for easy targets. On some days,  the traffic becomes "choker-block" creating miles of "tail gate parties" where drunken revelers jump off their vehicles, smear powder on wind screens, and soak  anyone outside of their car or who is stupid enough to leave their window rolled down. Last year, I got stuck in one of these, and it took 2 1/2 hours to get from Sukhumvit to Beach Road along Pattaya Klang.

   Some of the most diabolical squirt guns imaginable (wish we had them back when I was a kid in the 19th Century!) are available for sale in all the shops and on every street corner.
   Some people find this to be a giant hoot, 
and for others there is no charm in sitting in an conditioned bar in soggy underwear! One thing is for sure, you are not going to stay dry for very long if you venture out into public during Songkran. Many residents  leave town  for the week to escape.  Using a private car and having  "dry zone" where you can enter and exit safely is the only way to get any business done, or to transport papers and valuables without getting them wet.  There is literally no safe place out of doors.  And, of course, as in any mass-gathering, there are always reports of tragic accidents and incidents.

   I have never seen anything quite like it anywhere else in the world. It is worth the experience, at least once.  If you want to play, I  suggest buying a couple of those inexpensive,  super-light nylon shorts and T-shirts that dry out very quickly, and wear flip-flops--otherwise it can be very uncomfortable walking around in soaked clothing, especially in the air conditioned shops and restaurants.  Have fun!  And don't say you haven't been warned!





[size=78%]And now a little about the traditional Songkran :  [/size]

"The Rites of Songkran (Thai New Year ) 

At the Thai New Yearthere are rites and rituals thatpeople participate in as part of the New Year blessings and Buddhistmerit-making, One of these is the splashing of water. Water runs deep in the Thai New Year traditions, both as a symbol of cleansing and as a symbol of renewal. These days we tend to recognize the throwing of large amounts of water as the epitome of the Songkran festivities but is has always been the more delicate water splashing that represents the gentle nature o fSongkran and the Thai New Year.
   The family sprinkling scented water from silver bowls on a Buddhaimage is a ritual practiced by all Thais in on the third day of Songkran, known as Wan Payawan. This is the first official day of the New Year and on this day people cleanse the Buddha images in their homes as well as in the temples with
scented water. The family is dressed in traditional Thai costume and wearing leis of jasmine flower buds. The wateris scented with the petals of this flower.
   In addition to the cleansing of the Buddhaimages a traditional Songkraninvolves the sprinkling of water by younger people on the older people as a tribute of respect and for blessings. This is much different from the watertossing we see on the streets and is a genuinely sincere event whereby scented
water is poured over the shoulder and gently down the back of the person. While pouring the water in this manner, people utter good wishes and words of blessing for the New Year. The water symbolizes cleansing, refreshment of the spirit and all good things associated with life.
   Related to the water pouring is the ritual of the tying of strings. This involves thetying of strings around the wrists of others and expressing good wishes for the New Year. When a person ties strings to another's wrist, it is a very important event. He or she approaches with a gentle smile and holds out the string by the two ends and then begins to tie. The person receiving the string has his or her arm outstretched with the under side of the wrist facing upward. While tying the strings, the person recitesshort prayers of blessing spoken directly for the individual. This is one of the most charming events of Songkran and it's one that you should show great appreciation for should someone approach you to apply the strings to your wrist. At Songkran a personcould have as many as 25 or 30 strings on each Wrist each from a different person, and these are to be left on until they fall off of their own accord.
   As part of the water sprinkling, watersplashing and string tying rites, you may also encounter aperson with a small silver bowlfilled with a white powder or pasty substance. This is one of the oldest Songkran traditions. The white paste is a sign of protection and promises to ward off evil. The person with the paste is often older and he or she applies the paste to variousparts of the face, neck and torso of others.
One is expected to leave this paste on until it washes off of its own accord, and while there is a tendency to shy away from this paste because it looks like it might ruin the clothes, it is water soluble and willnot harm materials.
   There are other rituals and merit-making rites that people engage in atSongkran. In addition to the traditional cleaning of the home and bidding the old year adieu, these include making offerings to local temples and the monks. The offerings include preserved foods cooked dishes, fresh fruit and new robes
for the monks. Also people build sand piles on the temple grounds and these sand piles represent personal pagodas built as part of the merit-making ritual. The traditions of Songkran have a longhistory and are still observed in the Thai homeland of Sipsong Panna in southwestern China, in Laos and in northern Burma. Songkran or the Thai New Year, is actually the occasion of the passing of the sun from Taurus into
Aries. It is a solar event and it marks the beginning of a new astrological year, and this is very important in Thailand. Songkran day always is April 13. TheThai New Year celebration: always is held on April 12,13 and 14 officiallybut an entire week will be filled with fun in Chiangmai." 


Mon 31 Mar 2014, 11:07 am


Official dates

Sun 13 Apr thru Wed 16 Apr 2014

But some places will undoubtedly begin

Sat 12 Apr

and continue through

Fri Apr, possibly Sat & Sun as well. 

When official Songkran falls on a weekend, there is the possibility of it continuing for the full week, both weekends.

!!! Warning !!!

Chakri Day is 

 Mon 7 Apr 14, 2014

It is a national, legal holiday, so if you are need to get immigration or other business done before Songkran, plan accordingly !

Mon 31 Mar 2014, 11:20

Songkran, how do I love (hate) thee?   
Let me count the ways . . .

Post your Songkran, Love it or Hate it stories here. 

What are your plans this year?  What is the best/worst Songkran you can remember? 

Sun 13 Apr 2014, 7:55 pm

Road mayhem: Songkran death toll rises to 102 after two days

Come on!  You guys aren't trying hard enough!  More booze!  More speed!  More recklessness!

 Fri 18 Apr 2014, 10:02 am

Thais ranked as fourth heaviest drinkers in the world

--- Quote ---This is actually more problematic than appears on the surface of the report.  Approximately one third or more of ethnic Asians lack a specific enzyme that metabolizes alcohol.  I am sure you have all know Thais (or other Asians) who get f**ked-up on one beer.  This is a well-understood phenomenon.  Paradoxically, this "cheap date" syndrome makes Asians less inclined to actual alcoholism than (ethnic) Northern Europeans who have this enzyme.  Speculation is that Chinese and people in the other  tea-drinking cultures never developed this enzyme because they sterilized water by boiling.  Europeans, on the other hand, drank weak beer instead of water, and as a consequence were always half-soused all the time.  As a response, Europeans developed this particular enzyme which metabolizes booze and allows Europeans to "hold their liquor" but also make us more prone to full-blown alcoholism.  Oooops!  I didn't intend such a long-winded introduction.  But the moral of the story, is that great numbers of Asians should avoid alcohol entirely.
--- End quote ---

 BANGKOK, 17 April 2014 (NNT)


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