Songkran Festival 2024

Explore the traditional and modern aspects of Songkran, Thailand’s traditional new year celebrated from April 13th to 15th.
Thailand
13 April 2024

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Songkran is one of the most important events in Thailand’s calendar as its traditional new year. The word Songkran derives from Sanskrit, meaning “to move” or “step forward.” Unlike other traditional festivals in Thailand that follow a lunar calendar, Songkran is observed during a fixed period on the Gregorian calendar from April 13th–15th.

Modern celebrations

People having water fights in Silom during Songkran Festival
Source: artapartment / Shutterstock.com

The traditional new year is an extended public holiday, allowing Thais, as well as foreign nationals from neighboring countries that also observe Songkran, to return to their hometowns for family reunions. Consequently, there’s usually a major exodus from urban centers, especially Bangkok.

April is the hottest month of the year in Thailand, so inevitably, Thai people found a light-hearted way to beat the heat. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, urban hotspots across the country would be closed off from traffic to allow people to enjoy water fights in the street. 

Normally, the two most common street parties in Bangkok are Silom, which takes place all along Silom street that is over four kilometers in length, and Khao San Road, which is located in Phra Nakhon District.

These water fights can be a refreshing escape from the heat. Though largely discouraged nowadays, revelers can be seen smearing din sor pong (limestone talc mixed with water) on each other.

Family and religious traditions of Songkran

Undeniably, the most famous aspect of Songkran Festival is the splashing of water and water fights. However, other cultural aspects of Thailand’s traditional new year are Rod Nam Dam Hua and Song Nam Phra.

Pouring scented water over elders' and elderly family members' hands and ask for their blessing on Songkran day
Rod Nam Dam Hua, the ritual pouring of scented water over the palms of elderly relatives. Source: Siyanight / Shutterstock.com

Rod Nam Dam Hua is somewhat similar to Song Nam Phra, but it is a ritual of pouring scented water on elderly family members’ palms to pay respect and receive their blessings instead.

Bathing Buddha statue with scented water during Songkran Festival
Song Nam Phra, the ritual bathing of a Buddha statue with scented water. Source: Popcorn Photo Style / Shutterstock.com

Song Nam Phra is a ritual of bathing and cleaning the Buddha statue with scented water (traditionally scented with a Thai perfume called nam ob). This ritual is believed to be a way of paying respect to the Buddha statue and to bring good fortune to the person.