The three days from the 13th to the 15th of April officially marks the Songkran Festival, which is also known as the traditional Thai New Year. It is normally celebrated with the use of water culturally as a symbol of washing away negativity from the past year and welcome good things into the new year.
Songkran is also recognized as a reunion of Thai families to pay gratitude to elders at home. It also involves merit-making, presenting offerings to monks, wearing traditional Thai outfits as well as floral outfits, listening to sermons at temples, and, most importantly, splashing of water as it is believed to bring longevity, good health, and prosperity.
As April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand, the water festival is widely celebrated by both locals and foreigners every year. The most famous water throwing events are normally organized across the country, particularly in major cities such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Khon Kaen which in normal years can attract over a hundred thousand like Pattaya’s famous “Wan Lai”.
On the first day of Songkran, Thai people will prepare themselves for the beginning of the New Year by visiting temples, spraying water on Buddha images, and cleaning their houses.
On the second day of Songkran, which is also marked as national family day, many people take this as an opportunity to go visit their families and spend the rest of the Songkran period at their hometown. Young people will also pour water on the palms of the elderly to pay respect. Additionally, traditional water rituals and water throwing festivals will also take place in the country.
The third day is generally reserved for “fun activities” with children (and many adults) splashing water, visiting neighbors, riding around in trucks, and splashing water at others and is generally the “big celebration day” of the Thai New Year. It can also include beauty contests, parades, festivals, concerts, and other events. (Although this year, those “fun” aspects are officially banned.)
As a national holiday, government offices and banks are closed during the three-day period or longer, depending on the annual government official announcement. Many local shops and restaurants will also be closed during the festival. Immigration is closed during the festival.
This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only traditional events are allowed, mostly those involving religion or merit-making. Water fights, concerts, parties, and similar events have been banned by the Thai government this year and some provinces, notably Bangkok, have also restricted traditional activities. However, millions of people have still traveled for the holiday to see their family. The holiday is the longest, biggest, and most important holiday of the year for the Thai people, comparable to Christmas in the West. Although the “party” aspect gets most of the media attention, the holiday is much, much more than that as it is for many Thai people their only major public holiday and time off work every year (like Christmas in the West) and time to spend with their families.
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