Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Happy Songkran!

An Explanation of the Thai New Year Celebration
By: Elise Gilchrist

Songkran is a festival celebrating the traditional Thai New Year. It is held during the hottest time of the year-- right at the end of dry season in April. The celebration was officially set for April 13-15, but up in the typically sleepy Golden Triangle village, the festival ran for a full week!
            The most obvious aspect of the celebration is water throwing, which Thai people call “playing water.” During Songkran, Thailand engages in a nationwide multi-day water fight in the streets. No one is safe from the splashing, not even when you are trying to drive your motorbike to work. Kids set up on the main street with hoses and large buckets to throw water at each and every passersby. The battles reach an excited frenzy when pick up trucks drive by loaded with an impossible number of passengers in the bed, all equipped with giant water barrels and squirt guns to douse the crowd.


Even the elephants joined in to the fun!!!
Photo by Lisa Barrett
            The entire festival is meant to symbolize spiritual and emotional cleansing and to bring good luck for the coming year. More traditional practices include spring-cleaning and pouring scented water on statues of the Buddha, as well as giving offerings, or merits, to local temples. Originally the water throwing was a much more docile affair in which one would pay respect to his or her elders and family by gently drizzling water over their shoulders.  However, you won’t find such sedate water playing on the streets of Sob Ruak!
            Songkran is also a Buddhist holiday that encourages people to visit the temple. During this time of year you might see people carrying small piles of sand to the temple. This is meant to return the sand that they have carried away on the soles of their feet over the course of the year.
            Even though today’s version of Songkran is a bit livelier than the traditional celebration, it is still considered to be an important time to visit with friends and family. The Think Elephants team took the opportunity to partner up with some local children and partake in the biggest water fight any of us had ever seen! Songkran is definitely one of our favorite Thai holidays so far.

The Think Elephants RA's getting splashed in the face!
Photo Selfie by Lisa Barrett

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