Songkran (Thailand)

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Songkran in Wat Kungthapao 03.jpg
New Year celebration, Rot Nam Dam Hua, a traditional way to celebrate with elders. Most Thai people go back to their hometowns to meet their elders.
Official name Songkran Festival (สงกรานต์)
Observed by Thai
Significance Marks the Thai New Year
Begins 13 April
Ends 15 April
Date 13 April
Next time 13 April 2020 (2020-04-13)
Frequency annual
Related to Thingyan, Lao New Year, Tamil New Year, Cambodian New Year
A truck load of people after a "hit", Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Songkran festival (Thai: สงกรานต์, pronounced [sǒŋ.krāːn], listen; is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year's Day from 13 to 15 April. The word "Songkran" comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti,[1] or literally "astrological passage") meaning transformation or change. It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart[2], the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festive occasion is in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.

New year traditions

Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. The morning begins with merit-making. Visiting local temple and offering food to the Buddhist monks are commonly practiced; however, on this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday – it represents purification and the washing away all of their sins and bad luck [3]. As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return homes to their loved ones and elder family members [2]. As a way to show respect, younger people often practice water pouring over the palms of elders’ hands. On the same occasion, paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of Songkran tradition.

The holiday is known for its iconic water festival, which is mostly celebrated by young people. Major streets are closed for transportation means, and are used for as arenas for water fights. Celebrants, young or old, participate in this tradition by splashing water on each other. More importantly, traditional parades are held, where cars are decorated with traditional ornaments. Also, central festival often hold pageant contest, or “Miss Songkran,[4]” where contestants are dressed in traditional Thai clothing. 

Water throwing along the western moat of Chiang Mai, Thailand
File:Tuktuk chiangmai songkran 05b.jpg
People in a tuk tuk getting soaked during Songkran in Chiang Mai
The use of chalk (Thai: ดินสอพอง) is also very common having originated in the chalk used by monks to mark blessings.

Songkran in Thailand

Central Region

People in this region always clean their house when approaching the Songkran Festival. Everyone dressed up in colorful clothes. After people present food to the monks they will offer a Requiem to the ancestors who have passed away. People also has the other merit such as pagoda which is intended to give sand to temple for construction or repair. Other forms of merits is releasing bird and fish. Nowadays, people also release other kinds of animal , for example, buffalo and cow.


In the southern part of Thailand, they call Songkran festival as free day. People in this part also do everything like in the other part of Thailand. They have their own three rules. First, everyone should not be busy from any work and should not spend any money. So before April 13 of ever year, people in the south prepare everything that should be used in that three days. Second they should not hurt other people or animals. Third they should not lie.


In April 13, the northern part of Thailand always has gunfire or firecrackers to repel all bad luck. In the next day, people prepare food and useful things to give to the monk at temple. People have to go to temple to do merit and bath Buddha's statue and after that they have to pour water on the hands of revered elders and ask for their blessings.


People in the eastern part also have activities like in the other part of Thailand, but people in this part always do merit at the temple all throughout the days of Songkran Festival. Some people, when they finish giving merit at the temple, prepare food to be given to their elderly members of their family.

File:Songkran in Wat Kungthapao 05.jpg
Monks receiving blessing at a temple in Ban Khung Taphao

Songkran elsewhere

Songkran is celebrated as Sangken in northeastern areas of India, as the traditional New Year's Day by the Buddhist Community. The Sangken festival is celebrated by the people of the Khampti tribe. The festival is also celebrated by Singpho, Khamyang, Tikhaks (Tangsa) and Phakyal community of Arunachal Pradesh, and Tai Phake community of Assam. Sangken generally falls in the month of 'Naun Ha', the fifth month of the year of the Khampti Lunar calendar coinciding with the month of April. It is celebrated in the last days of the old year and the Lunar New Year begins on the day just after the end of the festival.

The tradition of soaking people (mostly women) with water is typical in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the eastern part of the Czech Republic during the Easter celebrations on the beginning of April.

In some villages in South India, especially Karnataka, a festival called Okhali or Okhli is celebrated in which every household keeps a barrel of water mixed with chalk and turmeric to throw on passers-by. The date of Okhali coincides with that of Songkran in Thailand and Thingyan in Myanmar, not with the dates of Holi, which is a north Indian festival.

In other calendars

Songkran occurs at the same time as that given by Bede for festivals of Eostre—and Easter weekend occasionally coincides with Songkran (most recently 1979, 1990, and 2001, but not again until 2085.[5])



"Thai people should think about what we want and how we want to promote the image of our country. Do we want to be known as the hub of the water party with booze and a high death toll? Or do we want to be known for having a beautiful culture that no one else has" —Prommin Kantiya, director of the Accident Prevention Network (APN) [6]

Police statistics show that the death toll from road accidents doubles during the annual Songkran holiday. According to the figures, between 2009 and 2013 there were about 27 road deaths per day during non-holiday periods and an average of 52 road deaths per day during Songkran. Thailand has the second-highest traffic fatality rate in the world, with 44 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Approximately 70% of the accidents that occurred during the long holiday period were motorcycle accidents. About 10,000 people per year die in motorcycle accidents—both the drivers and passengers.[6]

During the 2014 Songkran festivities, 322 deaths and 2992 injuries occurred from April 11 to 17. Drunk driving and speeding were the most significant causes of accidents, in which motorcycles and pickup trucks were mostly involved.[7]

"Celebrate Singapore"

In 2014 "Celebrate Singapore," a large two-day Songkran-style water festival, was planned for Singapore and the event was promoted as the "largest water festival party in Singapore". However, controversy emerged when the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Governor for Tourism Products, Vilaiwan Twichasri, claimed that Thailand holds exclusive rights to celebrate Songkran and planned to consult with officials at the Department of Intellectual Property, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Culture to discuss a potential lawsuit; the Deputy Governor's view was supported by numerous Thai citizens on social media websites.[8] Chai Nakhonchai, Cultural Promotion Department chief, pointed out that Songkran is a traditional festival shared by many countries throughout Southeast Asia, while historian Charnvit Kasetsiri stated that no single nation can claim ownership of the tradition.[9] On 25 March 2014, the Bangkok Post reported that the Singaporean government had intervened in the festival's content and there would be no water-throwing, no water pistols and no public drinking; the festival was also reduced to a one-day event.[10]


  1. Saṃkrānti, Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The magic and traditions of Thai New Year (Songkran)". Tourism Authority of Thailand Newsroom, TAT Newsroom, Thailand Tourism News, Tourism Thailand, TAT. Retrieved 2015-12-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "The magic and traditions of Thai New Year (Songkran)". Tourism Authority of Thailand Newsroom, TAT Newsroom, Thailand Tourism News, Tourism Thailand, TAT. Retrieved 2015-12-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Chadchaidee, Thanapol. "Songkran Festival" (PDF). D.K. TODAY CO.LTD.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Ronald M. Mallen (April 2002). "Easter Dating Method". Astronomical Society of South Australia. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012. List of Easter Sunday Dates 2000–2099<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Lawless culture takes its toll". Bangkok Post. 11 Apr 2014. Retrieved 11 Apr 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Songkran Road Toll 2014". 4 August 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Suit eyed for Singapore Songkran". Bangkok Post. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Songkran in Singapore". Bangkok Post. 19 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Only in Singapore: No Songkran". Bangkok Post. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Further reading