By Mark Hefner
5 April, 2017
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: Songkran is one of the most important Thai holidays of the year and it’s about to happen again in mid-April. Songkran is the Thai word which means “move” or “change place” and reflects the sun’s relative position in the sky. Officially, Songkran runs from April 13th to April 15th but in many cities, Songkran runs for much longer.
Thai people across the country are also moving as they travel back to their hometowns to get together with their families to celebrate Songkran. These family celebrations reinforce three major values in Thai culture: family, society, and religion.
Families get together as younger family members pay respect to their family elders. Communities celebrate later in the day which strengthens the society. Religion is also celebrated this time of year as families visit temples to offer food to monks and listen to Buddhist sermons.
The celebration in Chiang Mai lasts for around a week. The downtown area by the moat has one of the most famous water celebrations in all of Thailand and attracts tens of thousands of people. Usually, there are activities around the moat with music, dancing, bubbles and a lot of water splashing.
Tourism Authority of Thailand
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has this to say about Songkran in Chiang Mai.
In the north, where Songkran Lanna is celebrated, it is also called the ‘Paweni Pi Mai Muang’.
The celebration begins on April 13, which is called ‘Sangkhan Long’ day. The day is considered as the last day of the year in the Northern region. In the morning, firecrackers will be lit because of the belief that evil from the past year will be chased away by the noise of the firecrackers. In the evening, a parade for Chiang Mai’s significant Buddha statue will be organized around the city. Locals and tourists join the ceremony both for fun and to make merit.
April 14 or ‘Nao’ day, it is believed that swear words and rude manner are prohibited on this particular day. Anyone who breaks the rules will have bad luck for a whole year.
April 15 either called the ‘Phya day’ or ‘beginning of the new era’. On this day locals usually start their morning early and go to a temple to make merit and listen to monks’ preachment. Later in the day locals will then go respectfully to their parents and older relatives to pour water on the hands and ask for blessing.
On the 16th of April, ‘Pak Pi’ day, people will go to pour water on the hands of the abbots from different temples.
On the 17April, ‘Pak Duen’ day, the last day of Songkran celebration here, locals will clean themselves by brushing their body to symbolize cleaning bad luck away. This tradition is unique to the North of Thailand only.
Songkran at NIS
NIS had its annual Songkran activities that started early in the morning with an observance of Buddhist faith by paying respect to the Buddhist statue in front of the school. Soon after, Buddhist monks came and teachers, staff and parents made merit with them.
After lunch, the school gathered in the auditorium for more traditional Songkran activities which included Thai dance, an explanation of Songkran by NIS Principal, Mr. Stephen Roderick, which was followed by the important Thai Tradition, “Rod Num Dum Hua.” All the teachers and staff poured scented water over all of the students.
This was followed by “water activities” and lots of happiness. The middle and high schools played in the field by the canteen while the elementary students played in the pool. It was a great day at NIS which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.
For safety reasons, people should always keep a few things in mind when playing in the water. Don’t squirt water in other people’s eyes. This could damage their eyes and possibly offend them. Don’t play with water around electricity. The results can be shocking. Also, always know where your children are if you are celebrating in a large crowd. Don’t throw water at motorcycles. The speed of the motorcycle may amplify the impact of the water causing the driver to have an accident which injures them or other people nearby.
The AAP (Mr. Mark, Mr. Paul and Mr. Steve) wishes you have a safe, relaxing and joyful Songkran holiday. We look forward to seeing our wonderful students again after the holiday.