Songkran or Thai New Year, which is annually held from April 13 to April 15 to mark the traditional Thai New Year and is Thailand’s biggest and most important festival.

The festival is well known for its tradition of water throwing, which symbolizes purification. Songkran is also an occasion to pay respect to the elders, make offerings to monks, family reunion and enjoy traditional Thai food and music.

For its meanings and excitement, the festival is a major draw for tourists to this country. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Thailand Songkran, including origins of Songkran and how and where to celebrate Songkran, tips for an ideal Songkran holiday. 

Songkran or Thai New Year celebration. Photo source: internet

Origins of Songkran festival 

It is traditionally celebrated for three days starting from the first full moon in April. This is because the country runs on the lunisolar Theravada Buddhist calendar.

The name Songkran comes from an ancient Sanskrit language meaning to ‘enter’ or ‘pass into’ and refers to the movement of the zodiac. That means there are twelve Songkrans each year, but the significance of this Songkran (sometimes called Major Songkran to distinguish it from the others) is when the sun enters the sign of Aries the Ram. The particular event was also closely related to the Vernal Equinox.

Celebrating New Year at the time of the Vernal Equinox was very common in the past. 

Do you know? 

The Songkran celebration is identical to those of the neighboring countries which practise Buddhism such as Laos (known as Bunpimay), Campuchia (Chol Chnam Thmay), Myanmar (Thingyan), Sri Lanka, Indian Holi Festival, the Chinese Ching Ming, Thai ethnic of Vietnam (Then Kin Pang), and the Christian Festival of Easter. Indeed, April Fool’s Day probably originated as mocking those who didn’t accept the switch of New Year from April to January in France in the Sixteenth Century.

Three Major Days of Songkran

What are Songkran activities? 

The festival also marks the beginning of the rainy season – and one of the hottest times of the year.

Thailand Songkran kicks off on April 13 and usually lasts three days.

The locals are joined by family members who have moved away and returned for the holiday to spend time with loved ones.

The first day of the Songkran festival sees people clean their homes and public places like temples and schools to get away from bad luck from the previous year and make a start for a new year. Another main activity is Song Nam Phra, a ritual that involves the pouring of scented water onto a temple’s sacred Buddha images. It is important to note the water (traditionally scented with a perfume called Nam Ob) is poured not onto the head of the image, but rather the torso and body.

Local people give offering to monks during the festival. Photo source: internet

The second day is known as Wan Nao and is when people prepare food and offerings to be given to monks and temples the following day. It is also a time to pay respect to elders, and young people prepare rose and jasmine water as well as Nam Op, scented water, with which to wash their parents’ feet in a ceremony called Rot Nam Dam Hua. The parents in return give the children their blessings, typically along with a jasmine floral garland. Many people will also make sand stupas – known as Chedi Sai – in the grounds of their local temple as a kind of personal pagoda and a fun family way to make a spiritual offering.

The third day of Songkran is known as Wan Payawan. Many families wake up early during Songkran and visit Buddhist temples, where they bring offerings such as food, clothes and listen to monks as they preach. They also partake in other rituals believed to bring good luck for the New Year.

Water splashing – How to celebrate Songkran

Besides honoring family traditions and religious practices, Songkran will kick off raucous water fights and street parties featuring loud music to the streets of Bangkok and beyond. This part of the festival truly attracts a huge number of travelers worldwide and generates grand economical benefits to Thailand every year. 

Symbolically the water washes away the previous year so people can get ready for the next one. 

People collect water in buckets, squirt guns, and anything else they can find, then hit the streets to playfully splash each other. It helps pretty much because April is one of the hottest months of the year in Thailand!

Water throwing in streets of Thailand during the New Year. Photo source: internet

Where’s the best places for Songkran 2024?

If you’re ready and willing to get soaked for three days straight, Bangkok is the top place to join Songkran.

Khaosan Road, the epicentre of the backpacker universe, is guaranteed to have thumping parties and crowded water fights. Siam, in central Bangkok, is also primed for Songkran, with various pop-up stages showcasing traditional dancing and live music.

Silom Road is another hub, with LGBTQ-friendly parties along Soi 4 and a major annual pool party at W Bangkok hotel. Fresh-faced revellers head to RCA, the heart of the city’s clubbing scene, which will also host Siam Songkran Music Festival this year.

If you want to level up with water cannons, laser beams and world-class DJs, book a ticker for S2O music festival.

To see the more traditional side of the festival, head to riverside temples such as Wat Pho and Wat Arun, catch cultural performances in Lumphini Park, or head north to the city of Chiang Mai – the capital of Songkran, where remains ancient traditions of Thai New Year festival.  

Want sun, sea and sand while getting soaked? The notorious beachside town of Pattaya extends its Songkran celebrations for a full week. Other popular beach destinations like Phuket, Krabi and Koh Phangan also join in the celebrations.

Top tips for travelers before Songkran 2024

Wear comfortable clothes to join the street water fights. Photo source: internet
  • Be prepared to get wet and have lots of fun
  • The streets are getting crowded, so expect tight traffic.
  • It is recommended to book hotels in advance, as this is a prime period for tourists.
  • The celebrations generally start at 10 AM and go on till 8 PM.
  • If you do not like getting soaked, then it is recommended you stay indoors.
  • Join in the celebrations but be respectful: don’t splash monks, elderly people or babies. And keep your water fights to designated areas.
  • While outdoors, be sure to carry your essentials, such as wallets and mobile phones, in waterproof pouches to avoid any damage.
  • Avoid getting the water in your mouth as it’s likely to make you ill – but don’t forget to stay hydrated with bottles of filtered water.
  • It is seen as inappropriate to wear revealing clothes or swimwear during this time. Be sure to get comfortable, but not too comfortable!!
  • Always wish anyone you can ‘Sawadee Bee Mai’. It means ‘Happy New Year’ in Thai.

If you plan to visit Thailand in April, the Songkran festival is a fantastic time to know the country. It’s one of the most awaited weeks in the year, and locals eagerly welcome tourists to join them in the occasion. If you dislike getting wet and afraid of the crowd, Songkran might not be the best time to go, but if you’re looking for a slice of Thai culture at its finest, what better time to visit?