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.
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.
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 / krap – Happy Thai New Year!
- Suk san wan pee maï thaï kha / krap – Happy New Year’s Day!
- Suk san wan Songkran kha / krap – Happy 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, 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 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:
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.
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
- 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 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
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.
|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)
|Chinese New Year (or January)|
Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Makha Bucha Day
Bann Tawai Village Woodcarving Fair
|Songkran (Thai New Year)|
Chakri Memorial Day
|Phuket Vegetarian Festival (Nine Emperor Gods Festival)|
Chulalongkorn Memorial Day
|Visakha Bucha Day |
Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival
Yee Peng Festival
Lopburi Monkey Buffet Festival
Pattaya Firework Festival
Phimai Festival and Long-Boat Race
Surin Elephant Festival
Sunflower Blooming Season – Mae Chaem
|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
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
In Summary: “Happy Songkran Day”
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!
TRIP PLANNERS FOR THAILAND: RELATED BLOG POSTS
Want more info to help you plan your Thailand holiday? Check out all the articles we’ve written on travel in Thailand below and continue planning your trip.
- 25 Of The Best Things To Do Phi Phi Island
- Phi Phi Islands Tours For Snorkelling And Sightseeing – Everything You Need To Know
- 19 Unusual And Unique Experiences In Thailand
- 29 Famous Landmarks In Thailand
- Travel Tips For Your First Time In Thailand
- Immersive 4 Day Itinerary For Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai Lantern Festival And Other Festivals
- Cost Of Living In Chiang Mai, Thailand
- The Best Thai Food In Patong Beach – Phuket, Thailand
- Essential Travel Guide To Hat Kata – Phuket, Thailand
- Happy Songkran Day – How To Best Celebrate The Thai New Year
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