It is absolutely the biggest holiday in Thailand: Songkran (http://songkran.tourismthailand.org) ushers in the Thai New Year every April 13th-15th. (This year is 2554 in Thailand.) Some folks make resolutions to start the year anew and that is why Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal. Besides washing their Buddha statues in their homes and offices, many Thais also give their homes a thorough cleaning to start the new year off right.
But by far the most popular Songkran tradition involves water — and lots of it. What originally began as a gentle pouring of a little water on a loved one has been transformed into an all-out water war! Songkran traditionally is a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends, neighbors, and monks. The Thai people capture the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then use this “blessed” water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on their shoulders.
Nowadays, Thais and farang alike roam the streets with containers of water or water guns or plant themselves at the roadside with a garden hose in hopes of drenching each other and passersby. Today the emphasis is on fun and water-throwing instead of the spiritual and religious aspects. For the young (and the young at heart), the holiday has evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand. This has further developed into a fun-filled 3 days featuring water fights and splashing water over anything moving: whether you’re on foot, riding a bike or moped, or on four or more wheels. There are even roving bands of water warriors crammed into the beds of pickup trucks that have been outfitted as water tanks on wheels.
Our first Songkran made a big splash! One of our fellow missionary families, the Tangs, invited us to experience this unique holiday with them. We drove the streets of Chiang Mai in the Tangs “water tank” looking for folks to douse from head to toe. While the four parents stayed dry in the pickup’s cab, the kids caught enough water that it took them a week to dry out! One of our kids was overheard to say: “This is the best holiday ever!”