by Maria Ruiz
“My God. What was that?” I yelled as someone turned a hose on me and my husband and soaked us with water.
“I don’t know”, he yelled back, ducking another blast of water.
We had just arrived in Bangkok, Thailand the night before and were just starting out to explore when suddenly a crowd of people ran to us, all throwing water.
The heat of the day was unbelievable, over 100 degrees and it was only nine o’clock in the morning. The water on our skin was delightful after the shock abated. We laughed and the crowd burst into laughter with us. What an introduction to a beautiful country and it’s delightful people.
We continued walking, admiring the wonderful little religious altars in every store and shop, with others spraying us with varying amounts of water. Even small children pointed their water guns at us.
Returning to the hotel and dripping water on the bright and shiny tile floor, we stopped at the desk and asked “What gives with all the water?”
“It’s Songkram. The Thai New Year Celebration.”
“But it’s April 13th, not New Year.” I said “Well, it is the old New Year” explained the lady.
“Old New Year?” I said.
“In 1944 Thailand used to use the lunar calendar and Songkram was the start of the new year. It came about the middle of April in the hottest month. Now we use January 1st as New Year but we kept Songkram as a national holiday and it’s celebrated all over Southeastern Asia. Some places celebrate for three days, others for six. Everyone takes to the streets with big barrels of water and sprays everyone else.
“It started off as a simple ceremony of dripping water into elder’s hand to wish them good fortune. It is thought to have evolved from an Indian festival Holi. It became big in Burma and migrated to northern Thailand, where is it still the biggest festival of the year.”
During the time we spent in Asia, we learned that Songkran celebrations have been going on for thousands of years.
In the heat, what a wonderful way to enjoy a few days. I know that my children would have welcomed the opportunity to spray adults with giant water guns or buckets of water. We even saw an elephant spraying water into the crowd.
We stayed two and a half years in Thailand and enjoyed all their festivals but none more than Songkran.