“Happy Songkran Day” – How to Best Celebrate the Thai New Year

Published Categorized as Thailand Travel, Asia Travel, Destinations, Travel Blog
Happy Songkran Day
Happy Songkran Day

You will hear the cries of ‘Happy Songkran’ or ‘Suk san wan Songkran’ if you are in Thailand during the Thai New Year celebrations. This important Thai festival is extremely popular with both locals and tourists alike, and is a unique and fun way to ring in their New Year. Just be prepared to get soaking wet!

Water is an important element of Songkran, however, there is much more to this festival than just water fights. Thai people making their way to their hometowns to spend time with older relatives and this period is about the appreciation of family.

If you are interested in the many traditions surrounding this important Thai festival, read on.

“As the year ends, let us look forward for a year full of joy, fun, health and prosperity. Let the coolness and positivity of Songkran spread in your life and make this coming year a more blessed for you. May the showers of water wash away all your problems and sorrows. Happy Songkran Festival!”

– Well Wishes by Russian Ambassador  –

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HAPPY SONGKRAN DAY – HOW TO BEST CELEBRATE THE THAI NEW YEAR

What is Songkran?

Songkran is Thailand’s most famous festival and it is a much loved and popular event. It is a three day Buddhist festival marking the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year according to the Luna or Solar Calendar.

It is celebrated in many South-East Asian countries including Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Vietnam’s Tai ethnic community, the Dai people from China’s Yunnan Province, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India.

So bad luck is not brought into the New Year, it is a tradition that all houses are thoroughly spring cleaned the day before the celebration. Part of this cleansing ritual was the cleaning of images of Buddha. By using the ‘blessed’ water that cleaned the images to soak other people, it was seen as a way of paying respect and bringing good fortune.

Today, the Songkran Festival is a period when Thai people splash water on themselves and others, which they believe will cause plenty of rainfall in the coming year. Water is used to cleanse themselves of bad things and also a symbol of fertility.


Meaning of Songkran

The word ‘Songkran’ comes from the sanskrit word for “astrological passage”, meaning transformation, change, passing or approaching. In this case the move of the Sun into Aries.


When is the Songkran Festival?

Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration and takes places every year from the 13th to 15th of April throughout all regions of Thailand.


What Happens During the Songkran Festival?

Songkran Festival is also referred to as “Returning Home Day”, as many family members who have moved away to work in big cities often return to their rural home towns to be with their loved ones and elders. It is also extremely important to pay reverence to ones ancestors as part of the Songkran tradition.

As with most Thai celebrations, the mornings begin with making merit, with many people visiting their local temple and offering food to the monks. The offerings include preserved foods cooked dishes, fresh fruit and new robes for the monks.

It is also customary to buy birds and fish from local merchants within the temple grounds to release back to nature. According to Buddha’s teachings, such an action is believed to help free one’s life and considered to be good karma.

As a tourist, Songkran presents you with the opportunity of understanding the traditions behind Songkran and enjoying the activities that are a part of this celebration i.e. Thai performances, beauty contests, carnivals, parades, traditional foods and water fights.


Happy Songkran Day – Day 1 of Festival

Known as Songkran Day or the National Elderly Day, the first day of the festival (13th April) is traditionally marked by performing the Rod Nam Dam Hua ritual. During this ritual, young people pour fragrant water into their elders’ palms as a gesture of humility and to ask for their blessings. They also pour scented water over the shoulder and gently down the back of the person, whilst uttering blessings and words of good will.

April 13th is also when the water throwing really gets going. Traditionally, young people started to throw scented water by gently splashing water at each other to relieve the heat of April (temperatures can rise over 40°C).  Nowadays, it is buckets of ice water and water guns on the streets.

Happy Songkran
Happy Songkran

Wan Nao – Day 2 of Festival

The second day of Songkran is National Family Day and is also known as Wan Nao. Wan Nao is the celebration of the old Thai New Year’s Eve and takes place on the 14th of April when the sun travels between Pisces and Aires. On this day you can see one of Songkran’s more formal rituals as many Buddhists go to their temples to build sand chedis / stupas (a sand castle built to resemble a Buddhist temple). The sand is carried by the handful by local people to their neighbourhood temple in order to compensate for the dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the year.

Many families will wake up early and offer alms to the monks wandering the streets. The rest of the day is spent sharing quality family time, either cleaning out their homes or just being together as a family.


Thai New Year’s Day – Day 3 of Festival

Celebrated on the 15th of April, Thai New Year’s Day is the final day of Songkran celebrations in many parts of the country.  Also known as Wan Payawan, this day is celebrated by ‘Bathing the Buddha’, in which devout Buddhists pour fragrant water over Buddha statues both at the temple and at home. It represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck.

Some temples also celebrate a bathing ritual where the people pour water on the senior Buddhist monks. Afterwards, the chief monk gives a sermon and blesses those who attend this bathing ritual.

This day is for people of all ages to make merit and spend a peaceful moment at the temple with their families.


How to Say ‘Happy Songkran Day’ in Thai

Here is a small selection of Thai phrases that might be useful over the days of Songkran.

  • Sawasdee pee maï thaï kha / krapHappy Thai New Year!
  • Suk san wan pee maï thaï kha / krapHappy New Year’s Day!
  • Suk san wan Songkran kha / krapHappy Songkran!
  • Thiao haï sanook na kha / krap – Enjoy Your Holidays!

    N.B. If you are a woman, you finish your sentence with “kha” and if you are a man with “krap”.

Where to Celebrate a Happy Songkran Festival in Thailand?

It doesn’t matter where you are in Thailand on the 13th to 15th April, be prepared to get soaked! There is much conjecture over the best place to experience this festival. Many claim the Silom area in Bangkok is the best but many also say Chiang Mai is the place to be. Read on to help you decide where you want to ring in the Thai New Year.

Happy Songkran in Bangkok

Here are a few places in Bangkok where you can celebrate Songkran. 


Khao San Road

Khao San Road is the most popular place to celebrate Songkran in Bangkok. Known as backpacker street, this area is pretty crazy and busy on a regular day, but this is taken to a whole new level during Songkran.


Silom Road

Silom Road, located near Lumpini Park, is probably the biggest and best place to celebrate Songkram, and is where the locals go. The entire 5km street is packed with thousands of people carrying water guns and one of the highlights of the celebrations here is to see the water fight between the fire trucks and locals.

Happy Songkran
Happy Songkran

Happy Songkran in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is home to one of the country’s biggest Songkran celebrations beginning a little earlier on the 12th April. Here are some of the areas where you can celebrate:


Old City

Thapae Gate and all around the moat in the Old City are the best places to celebrate Songkran and where you will see the biggest water fights and lots of entertainment.


Nimmanhaemin Road

Expect to see lots of people and water battles all along Nimman Road, and live entertainment near Maya Mall.


Happy Songkran in Phuket

The most popular place on the island to enjoy this festival is Patong.


Patong Beach and Bangla Road

The Patong Beach area and Bangla Road is where the best celebrations can be found. Expect streets packed with pickup trucks throwing water at locals and tourists alike, sandcastle making on the beach, beauty contests, traditional Thai performances, and live bands.


Happy Songkran in Pattaya

Beach Road and Walking Street

Beach Road becomes one of the largest party venues with water fights, stages for musical and dance performances, as well as foam machines. The action intensifies the closer you get to Walking Street.


Top Tips for Having a Happy Songkran Day

Do’s

  • Book your transportation and accommodation well in advance as many locals, as well as tourists, will be traveling to the main areas in Thailand
  • Give alms and make merit (or just witness the rituals if you are not a Buddhist) by visiting a nearby Buddhist temple.
  • Protect your gear / valuables with a waterproof bag and beware of pickpockets
  • Be prepared to get wet and wear quick drying clothes
  • Use public transportation as this festival period is known for high fatalities on the road
  • Only use clean water without ice
  • Wish the locals a Happy New Year in Thai – “Suk San Wan Songkran Kha / Krap” or “Sawasdee Pee Mai Thai Kha / Krap!”
  • Smile, have fun and party!

Don’t’s

  • Don’t throw water with ice or dirty water
  • Don’t splash monks, babies or the elderly
  • Don’t throw water at people riding motorcyclists as this may cause a road accident
  • Avoid wetting people who make it clear they don’t want to be a part of the water fight
  • Don’t spray people in the face
  • Don’t drink and then drive
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Other Popular Thai Festivals

Thailand boasts one of the highest numbers of public holidays in the world and it uses these to celebrate many magical festivals which take place throughout the year. The best events and holidays include Thai New Year, the water throwing celebrations of Songkran, and the fairy-tale floating offerings of Loy Krathong.

Whether you’re looking to learn about Thai culture and Buddhist rituals, pay your respects on religious holidays, or simply have fun participating in and witnessing some of the best Thai festivals, here are our recommendations for unmissable festivals and events that you can time with your Thailand holiday.


JANUARYJULY
Bo Sang Umbrella Festival
Sunflower Blooming Season – Mae Chaem
Colours of Doi Tung Festival – Chiang Rai
Chinese New Year (or February)
Khao Phansa Day
Phi Ta Khon (Thai Ghost Festival) – Dan Sai (or June)
FEBRUARYAUGUST
Chinese New Year (or January)
Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Makha Bucha Day
Bann Tawai Village Woodcarving Fair
 
MARCHSEPTEMBER
  
APRILOCTOBER
Songkran (Thai New Year)
Chakri Memorial Day
Phuket Vegetarian Festival (Nine Emperor Gods Festival)
Chulalongkorn Memorial Day
MAYNOVEMBER
Visakha Bucha Day
Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival  
Loy Krathong
Yee Peng Festival
Lopburi Monkey Buffet Festival
Pattaya Firework Festival
Phimai Festival and Long-Boat Race
Surin Elephant Festival
Sunflower Blooming Season – Mae Chaem
JUNEDECEMBER
Phi Ta Khon (Thai Ghost Festival) – Dan Sai (or July)New Year’s Eve
Colours of Doi Tung Festival – Chiang Rai
Sunflower Blooming Season – Mae Chaem

READ MORE: CHIANG MAI LANTERN FESTIVAL AND OTHER 2021 FESTIVAL

This article will provide you with the following additional information:

  • Chiang Mai Lantern Festival or Yee Peng Festival
  • Chiang Mai Festival /  Events Calendar
  • Details on Other Popular Thai Festivals

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In Summary

One of the best things about travel for us is the ability to explore different cultures, and one of the best ways to do this is through participation in local festivals. To partake in religious festivals in another country is one of the most unique and eye-opening experiences, and can make for a meaningful reason to visit a new land.

Songkran is one of our favourite Thai festivals and is a lot of fun! Anyone and everyone gets involved in the celebrations. But if you are out and about during Songkran, you are guaranteed to end up soaking wet but with a smile on your face!

So, if you’re planning a trip to visit Thailand during Songkran, we hope this post has given you some insight into what makes this event so special and unique. We also hope it has prepared you for what you can expect from Songkran celebrations in different cities throughout the country. Happy Songkran Day!


Exit 45 Rating

The Exit45 Rating scale runs from a low of 1 to a high of 5 in each of the 9 categories.  As such, the higher the score out of 45, the better the Exit45 Rating.  N.B. These scores are our own personal opinions and are based on our experiences, budget constraints and what we love doing i.e. adventure seeking foodies who love snorkelling and water related activities.

Value for Money4
Cuisine5
Friendliness of Locals4.5
Ease of Language Barrier4
Climate4
Activities and Tours4
Ease of Travel4
Culture Barrier4
Safety4
TOTAL EXIT45 RATING37.5/ 45

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“Happy Songkran Day” - How to Best Celebrate the Thai New Year

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By Peta Wenzel

We are Peta (Australian) and Jonas (Swedish/Australian), a couple in our mid 40’s / early 50’s who have been travelling the world fulltime since January 2018. We met and lived on the Gold Coast, Australia and spent many evenings researching and watching YouTube vlogs about travel and dreaming of the day we would retire and be able to enjoy a lot more travel ourselves. Over the years, a number of events happened to family and friends and an opportunity arose which made us decide to not wait but to instead take a “Gap Year”. We are now in our 3rd year of travel and still hunger for new adventures and embrace the uncertainty that comes with full-time travel. If you want to know more about who we are, why we choose this lifestyle and how we do it, please follow our adventures and see how you can do it too.

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