Songkran, the Thai New Year, was officially postponed today by the Thai Cabinet and Government out of concern for the possible spread of the novel Covid-19 Coronavirus.
This is an unprecedented event, at least in modern times, and has many people, foreigners and Thai nationals, asking what next?
Well, we wanted to take a moment to try to answer that question and a few others.
Q. When is Songkran normally?
A. The official dates are April 13-15th every year, although the holiday for Thai people, with days off work and national holidays, are normally the 12th-16th. Some provinces and areas celebrate on different days. In Pattaya, the event is normally over a week, with the big event being on April 19th.
Q. When was it moved?
A. The exact date has not been decided, however, is likely to be in July based on discussions the Cabinet has had. They have promised to give advance notice and enough time for people to book flights and make plans for the holiday. This will also be contingent on the control and management of the Covid-19 Coronavirus.
Q. Why not cancel it entirely?
A. This has been asked by many foreigners and a few expats who don’t enjoy the holiday on forums. The event is much more then the water wars and massive concerts that usually draw millions of tourists and millions of domestic Thais across the country. It is essentially the longest and most important holiday of the year for the Thai people. For many, it is the only chance they have to go home and visit their family. Many Thai’s work remotely in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, etc. This holiday gives them the time, like Christmas in the West, to see their family and celebrate. It would be like telling Western countries Christmas is cancelled. The event includes many other events and traditions besides the water fights that tend to dominate the news, such as making merit, paying respect to elders, beauty contests, family cleaning of the entire home, parades, displays of traditional religious relics, Sand castle building, symbolic releases of animals, cleansing rituals, wearing colorful clothing, giving food to the needy, exchanging gifts and more. Finally, it goes without saying that the Thai people need this event and morale booster after the current virus situation and chance to be with their families and friends.
Q. But you can’t move New Year!
A. They just did. And, the date hasn’t fallen on the actual lunar New Year, like it used to traditionally and the Chinese New Year still does, for many years and has only become set dates in recent times so it is not without total precedent.
Q. Will April 13-15 still be a public holiday?
A. No. The entire holiday, New year and religious ceremonies and all will be moved. The Thai Cabinet has promised the Thai people they will still get their holiday that to many is the most important time of the year and chance to see their family.
Q. Why is it being cancelled?
A. Besides the threat of the Covid-19 Coronavirus, the event is the single largest migration of Thai people yearly. The Thai government does not want to see hundreds of thousands of people, some who may have the virus and be asymptomatic, return to their traditional family villages in Thailand where many elderly and at risk groups live. And, yes, to help bring in tourism dollars and tourists, both domestic and foreign, after the virus crisis ends, as if held in a reserved form it would not do so.
Q. Will Pattaya still make it an entire week or more?
A. We don’t know. We expect different provinces and areas will have their major events on different days, as normal, clustered around the main holiday. This is done for many reasons, but the primary one is to allow domestic tourists to visit different events and places after visiting their families.
Q. Will it be traditional or a full on waterfight?
A. It will, as long as things are calm and the virus situation resolved, be like any regular Songkran holiday.
Learn more about Songkran here: