Happy Water Festival!
It’s nearly time to celebrate Southeast Asia’s lunar New Year, internationally known as a region-wide water festival! From gently pouring water over Buddha statues as a sign of respect, blessing and good luck, to taking to the streets for hours of water splashing, the New Year is a must-see holiday for travellers from around the world.
Read on for more tips and tricks on how to have a safe and happy New Year!
Water Festival: It’s a New Year for Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia
Not only is the Water Festival a significant festival throughout Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, that marks the beginning of the new solar year and the start of the summer season, but also the beginning of the famous water fight frenzy!
In Thailand, the festival (known as Songkran) is an occasion for family reunions, temple visits and annual house cleaning. Traditionally, people perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual (Thai) on the first day of Songkran, which is officially the National Elderly Day. During the ritual, young people will gently pour fragrant water onto elders’ palms as a gesture of humility and ask for blessings. Ideally, the rest of the day is spent sharing quality family time together. Another important religious ritual on Songkran is ‘Bathing the Buddha image’, in which devout Buddhists pour perfumed water over Buddha statues both at the temple and at home.
Visiting nine sacred temples during Songkran is also a common practice. In Bangkok, try making it to nine temples in the Rattanakosin area such as Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Suthat Thepphawararam, Wat Chana Songkhram, Wat Boworn, Wat Benchamabophit, Wat Rakhang Khositaram, Wat Arun and Wat Kanlaya.
Nowadays village- and city-wide water splashing events are also a big part of the holiday as people let loose, have some fun and seek much-needed respite from the heat.
To survive the festival, take note of these helpful Do’s and Don’ts:
- Do give alms and make merit (or just witness the rituals if you are not Buddhist)
- Do use waterproof bags to protect your valuables
- Do watch your belongings
- Do use public transportation if you are heading to one of Songkran ‘hotspots’, as traffic will be paralysed
- Do try wishing the locals a happy new year in Thai – “Sawasdee Pee Mai!”
- Do smile and have fun
- Do not douse monks, babies or the elderly
- Do not drive when you have been drinking
- Do not throw water with ice or dirty water
- Do not throw water at motorcyclists, to prevent road accidents