Songkran is a festival or the Water Festival, marks the New Year for Thai people at the height of the regions Summer. Thus it provides a very unique way to celebrate incoming new year.
A ceremony that people offer food to Buddhist monks, known as “making merit,” is part of the Songkran ceremonies, which dates back hundreds of years.
TYPICALLY the festival last four days but this year in the Capital of Thailand Bangkok it has been shortened to just three due to the on-going drought that has been dominating south east Asia including Thailand.
This drought is a result of one of the strongest El-Ninos on record and one more repercussion of global warming and climate change as a whole.
There has been a extreme rainfall deficit for most of Thailand. The graphic below shows how much of the Indo-China Peninsula is under severe drought (in red). This includes Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and also to the east with most of the southern half of the Philippines.
April in May is typically the hottest time of the year for this region of the world and is likely one of the main reasons this festival that includes splashing water on each other is so popular. But until the south west monsoon shows up and brings rainfall to the country water management is going to be a primary concern.
Actions have also been taken in the Philippines to combat the drought including the Mayor of Cebu issuing a state of calamity following weeks without rainfall.
To learn more about how El-Nino encourages drought in south east Asia watch the video below.
Despite the restrictions this festival is still going to be one of the most interesting events of the year for the country and I recommended to visit.
The first day of Songkran is also National Elderly Day. The younger generation should trickle scented water into elders’ palms to show their love and respect.
The festival also marks the end of the dry season and the hottest time of year for Thailand. The water was originally meant to symbolize one cleansing there spirit after the dry season. But now, more and more people choose to celebrate the festival with a huge water fight in streets across the country, which is more or less a large party far from religion.
I attended one of these festivals years ago in Bangkok and I can relay that my experience was a far cry from the traditional ways. It really is a all out water war across the country. That would be harmless in itself drinking also becomes involved and that would be ok until people get on there bikes and attempt to drive. When I was there I thought to myself Im surprised people don’t die here. You see water balloons smashing in to people on Mopeds as they wiz by.
After some short research the grim reality showed that the death toll in 2013 alone due to traffic accidents is up to 173 people with 500 injured. Thus coining the nickname as the Songkram Seven deadly days. (Or so I read in a few news feeds)
Don’t let this take away from the traditional and fun part of the festival though. If you live or are to visit Thailand during this time just stay off the roads, be ready to get wet and have a sense of humor about you. Its all in good fun. At the very least the water might help you cool down in the baking heat.