Thursday, April 14, 2011

Songkran – Thai New Year

Songkran festival on April 13 is Maha Songkran Day - the day to mark the end of the old year, April 14 is Wan Nao which is the day after and April 15 is Wan Thaloeng Sok which the New Year begins. Songkran is called the “Water Festival”. Water is believed to flow and wash away all bad omens during this time.
So how that gets translated is a 3 day water fight with the addition of baby powder. Some parts reflect the strong family and Buddhist values of Thailand and some not so much. Of course there are parades through the village and circling the Wat 3 times. Naam homme, water scented with jasmine, is brought to the Wat in every conceivable container. It is poured on all the Buddhist icons as a blessing. The monks line up sitting in chairs with senior citizens doing the same. People go down the line pouring the water on the monks’ hands without saying anything. We then pour it into the hands of the seniors but this time with a wish for good health. Jasmine leis are made (very fun) at home and worn and given as gifts to dignitaries, such as farangs! Lots of music, parades, and dancing. Seven women are chosen to ride on a float representing the 7 daughters of a king long ago. I asked, how are they chosen?, thinking of a contest of sorts. The answer was something along the lines of, I pick you and you and you…too funny. So all that is fun and makes sense. Now for the rest of the story.
As you walk along on the parade route, by standers have a great time throwing water on the walkers/dancers. They squirt water from hoses and super soakers and dumb it from buckets. Not too bad cause it is so hot, but then the baby powder comes out, from what I saw mostly by obnoxiously slightly drunk young men. One in particular took great joy in coming up to me and saying “Culture” as he threw the powder. He was already not my favorite.
Away from the Wat, people are out along the road throwing water at every car, motorcycle, and bicycle going past. It is a crazy holiday. I did a lot of local travel with friends that kept me out of some of these situations. Every village along the way has traffic checks set up to watch for drunk drivers, a big problem during this holiday. Never saw anyone stopped, but I am sure having the police out in force is somewhat of a deterrent.
So in 2 days I attended 3 Wat ceremonies that included all the above. So done with Songkran and I have another day to go!

Thai dancers honoring the New Year

Me with the Nayok and the head monk of the Wat

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