Songkran (Thai: สงกรานต์) is the traditional Thai new year. It is typically starts on April 13 and continues to April 15. During this time many people go back home to visit their families and participate in Buddhist rituals. Here are some of the more enjoyable aspects of the holiday that I observed and participated in.
Rinsing images of Buddha
Images of Buddha are rinsed with scented water called nam-op (Thai: น้ำอบ). It is symbolic of washing away sins and is supposed to bring good luck. The afternoon of the first day we went to a small local wat (Thai: วัด) for a ceremony in which some monks chanted and splashed water on everyone. Afterwards we went outside and poured water on the images of Buddha. When that was done some of the older ladies also poured water on me! I was slightly annoyed because by this time it was starting to get cool and I was mostly dry. Hopefully I did not show it. But after thinking about it I realize in a way they were comparing me to Buddha and did it because they thought it would bring them good luck.
Spending time with family
People travel home to their families for a family reunion. It is also a time to pay respect to and remember deceased family members. Here are a couple pictures from a ceremony for Anong’s mother. Several family members gathered around the gravesite while a couple monks chanted and gave some kind of blessing. A few small bones from the deceased are placed inside the yellow monument. I wasn’t sure what to think of the whole thing other than it is very different from western culture and it was interesting to be a part of it.
Worlds biggest water fight
April is the hottest time of the year in Thailand with temperatures regularly around 40C (104F). Getting wet during the hottest part of the day feels nice. It’s the few mean spirited people who ruin the holiday but most people “play water” (Thai: เล่นน้ำ) respectfully. Then there are the little kids on the side of the road with squirt guns. They are really cute! It is also tradition to smear white chalk on peoples faces to help keep cool.
At Wat Phu Noi (Thai: วัดภูน้อย) a monk recently passed away. There was an interesting ceremony in which people lined up and poured nam-op over some flowers placed on the monk.
At Wat Nawng Bplaa Kaaow (Thai:วัดหนองปลาขาว) we got to feed some fish and see some animals.
At Wat Tam Glawng Pean (Thai:วัดหนองปลาขาว):
If it’s 104 degrees out, I hope they didn’t screw around too long getting that dead monk in the ground, or on the pyre, or whatever they were going to do with him.
I’m not sure what the plans were… Maybe that’s why there are so many flowers there.
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