Songkran 2557

By Krabi Magazine May 23, 2014
We’re not done with the New Year’s celebrations, and Songkran – Thai New Year – is the pinnacle of them all. Of course, most people know it as Thailand’s annual group shower, but Songkran didn’t arise from a national hygiene issue. The annualnationwide water fight originated as a way of paying respect to people and wishing them well on the horizon of the new year. During this time, Buddha relics are cleansed with water, and somewhere along the way people began capturing the runoff and gently pouring it onto the shoulders of elders and family as a blessing of good fortune. Of course, this was a slippery slope as tricky youngsters evolved the ritual into full-fledged dousal each other. Not a shabby idea considering April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand.

Firecrackers are lit relentlessly, giving the boot the old year and scampering off evil spirits. Hoards of people pile into the back of pick-up trucks armed with buckets of water (with ice! so sneaky!) and water guns, ready to fire away as they creep slowly through town. Others gather along the streets hosing down passersby and filling up guns and the buckets of strangers to keep the festivities going. People dance in the streets and smear each other with colored talcum powder. The entire nation purifies itself with exceptional efficiency…and in other news things are pretty solid for the utility company.

But don’t let the water blur your vision. It’s still a festival deeply steeped in spiritual and religious aspects, so it’s also a wonderful experience to step outside to partake in the rites and rituals outside of the raging water battle. Clean your home – and any Buddha relics you might have -as a figurative way of ridding your house of bad spirits. Join your family and pay respects to your elders. Try not to speak ill about anything or anyone during this time and make resolutions for the New Year (for the third time this year, we know, but does it hurt to keep trying?). Perhaps visit a local Wat – temple in Thai – and give food to the monks. In many Wats in the north you can get a glimpse of sand stupas, mounds of earth brought to the temple and decorated in colorful flags and pennants. They are a symbolic gesture of replacing the earth unwittingly taken off the grounds on the shoes of visitors.

In the South, Songkran is typically celebrated for up to three days, and in the north the mayhem plays on for a week. It’s a truly delightful cultural experience and we hope your 2014 Songkran experience is a great one. But before we part, here a few a tips for any of you newbs:

1.Please, don’t just go around blasting any Joe Thailand in the face. The festival is for anybody but not for everybody. Understand? Especially for the elderly and say, someone like your boss – controller of schedules and general ability to feed and clothe oneself- ask politely first if you can offer them a blessing, and keep the sprinkling to a controlled minimum; a little on the shoulder is great. This is not the day to prove that you are your corporate league’s dodgeball champion. And it doesn’t take a physicist to know that travelers on motorbikes feel thrown water harder. Be easy, bro. Also, indoors and innocents on restaurant patios are off limits. Nobody likes a soggy pizza.

2. Probably not the best day to wear white. The rules of apparel decency still apply as well, despite it being a water fight. Keep the banana hammocks and rump floss at the beach (or better yet just in your closet if you can help it).

3. Unless you stay indoors, you’re likely going to get wet. If it’s not waterproof or waterproof-able with some kind of protection, then leave it behind just to be safe.

4. Have fun. It’s a crazy time to be in Thailand and perhaps it’s not everyone’s flavor, but put on a smile, let your hair down and just try going with it. It really is a total blast (but whoa whoa, not too blasty, remember Rule #1!).

Be safe, and Happy Songkran-ing.
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