Celebrations for Songkran, the Traditional Thai New Year (12/04/2011)
Thai people are enjoying the long Songkran holiday when the traditional Thai New Year is celebrated in all parts of the country, with many joyous activities.

Often referred to as the “Water Festival” among foreigners, Songkran has been celebrated as Thailand’s most popular festival since ancient times, and this event may well reflect the essence of “Thainess.”

It is the festival that Thai people of all ages wait for every year, particularly the country folk, who still retain their traditional practices. Nobody knows exactly when and where the Songkran Festival began, but it is believed that Thailand adopted this traditional practice from India. The Songkran festival is celebrated not only in Thailand but also in neighboring countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and southern China.

Although this festival of entertaining and socializing covers one week or more in some rural areas, the highlight is between April 13 and 15. Many people take the whole week off to celebrate the Kingdom’s traditional New Year. On this occasion, people both young and old usually go to the temple for merit-making, such as alms-giving to monks. They also sprinkle Buddha images with scented water. Young people pour lustral water onto the palms of their elders as a gesture of respect and present them with gifts. In return, the elders give their blessings to them.

It is a time when Thais splash water over friends and other people to give them a New Year blessing. The water-splashing has made the festival famous around the globe. The fact that April is the hottest month of the year makes the blessings very welcome. There is also a deeper meaning in the practice of water-throwing, which is done to ensure that there will be an abundance of rain for the coming rice-planting season.

The celebrations of Songkran also feature parades, dancing, and traditional Thai games. Many foreigners find Songkran a great time to visit Thailand to experience distinctive cultural activities in a delightful atmosphere. The meaningful elements of Songkran are expressed through culture-rich ceremonies and rituals that reflect both local beliefs and practices.

As people travel around the country for Songkran celebrations, the Government has worked out a plan to ensure road safety and reduce road accidents and the death toll during the festival, from April 11 to 17. The plan involves strict law enforcement with regard to the sale of alcohol and drunk driving. Emergency medical care will be provided around the clock at 875 public hospitals, clinics, and health centers. During the Songkran festival in 2010, 361 died in road accidents and 3,802 were injured.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has invited about 300 overseas travel agents and media to join in the Songkran festival this year. It believes that a visit during this period will be a great chance for them to witness first-hand the splendors of Thailand.

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