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Songkran “Thai New Year”

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Songkran 2008 Thailand

The Songkran Celebration

The Thai New Year (Thai: สงกรานต์ Songkran, from Sanskrit sankrānti “astrological passage”) is celebrated every year on 13 April to 15 April. It coincides with the New Year of many other calendars in South and Southeast Asia.

The date of the festival was originally set by astrological calculation, but it is now fixed. If these days fall on a weekend, the missed days off are taken on the weekdays immediately following. Songkran falls in the hottest time of the year in Thailand, at the end of the dry season. Until 1888 the Thai New Year was the beginning of the year in Thailand; thereafter 1 April was used until 1940. 1 January is now the beginning of the year. The traditional Thai New Year has been a national holiday since then.

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The date of the festival was originally set by astrological calculation, but it is now fixed. If these days fall on a weekend, the missed days off are taken on the weekdays immediately following. Songkran falls in the hottest time of the year in Thailand, at the end of the dry season. Until 1888 the Thai New Year was the beginning of the year in Thailand; thereafter 1 April was used until 1940. 1 January is now the beginning of the year. The traditional Thai New Year has been a national holiday since then.

The Cultural Values of the Songkran Festival are expressed through the various ceremonies and rituals. The meaningful aspects of Songkran are culturally rich and varied in different parts of Thailand. The first cultural value is “Thanksgiving” – The demonstration of gratitude and an expression of thanks to individuals who have “done good” or shown goodwill and are worthy of respect and recognition.

Thanksgiving is demonstrated in ceremonial aspects of Songkran such as the bathing of Buddha statues with lustral water and the pouring of lustral water over the hands of the elders and respected individuals, and other outward demonstration of respect.

The second cultural value is Loyalty to Ancestors. This is achieved through merit-making. The third cultural value focuses on the individual’s sense of awareness of his or her responsibilities towards the family and home. It is demonstrated via the traditional custom of “spring cleaning”. The fourth value addresses the Value of Religion and highlights the well-defined roles and responsibilities of the “temples ans monasteries” on the one hand and the community served by the religious institution.

Observance of this principles involves:

  • Community involvement in the spring cleaning of temples.

  • Merit making and offering food and alms to monks.

  • The bathing of Buddha statues and monks.

  • The construction of “chedis” or stupas and the decoration or beautification of temple surroundings.

The fifth value is “Acts of kindness and generosity” towards others or doing good for others. This is demonstrated by the preparation, exchange and sharing of food and desserts by members of the community and the sprinkling of water on each other. This is a gesture of hospitality shown as individual attempt to “cool” each other off in the intense summer heat.

The sixth value is the spirit of “Cooperation and Community Spirit” demonstrated through the enthusiastic participation of individuals of the community in Songkran festivities, sharing in the fun, spreading happiness and goodwill to all.

The morning of Songkran Day begins with merit-making according to local customs and traditions. Younger folks make their way to show their respect and seek blessings of elders and individuals of seniority by making offerings. The ritual which accompanies this show of respect is highly elaborate. Deep respect and reverence is shown to the highest institution of the Kingdom – the monarchy and members of the royal family, learned individuals in particulars those who are “teachers” the providers of knowledge to students and elders recognized for their worldly experienced and wisdom. The gesture of respect manifest itself in the form of a colorful and vibrant procession. This is Songkran and not a moment’s “sanuk” is to be missed. Bright colors, song and dance and festive fun, is the order of the day. Once the ceremonial gesture of respect has been shown and the good spirited water throwing is over, everyone returns home to “freshen up” and prepare for the evening’s celebration which consist of various performances and forms of entertainment.

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