The government banned alcohol, nudity and other indecent acts for this 2016 Songkran festival in Thailand. It is celebrated in this country as the traditional New Year’s Day from 13 to 15 April.
The word “Songkran” means “transformation” or “change”. The term was borrowed from Makar Sankranti, the name of a Hindu harvest festival that is celebrated in India in January to mark the arrival of spring.
It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart as well as the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festive occasion is in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.
The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions.
The morning begins with merit-making. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks are commonly practiced.
On some specific occasions, 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.
As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return homes to their loved ones and elder family members.
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 traffic, and are used 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, the central festival often holds a pageant contest, or “Miss Songkran, where contestants are clothed in traditional Thai dress.
Due to some bloody accidents that usually occur during the festival, Prommin Kantiya (a Director of the Accident Prevention Network) said: “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.”
Thai people are loving their lives and this celebration is part of the culture they’ll never throw away for safety reasons or modernization.