Happy New Year … In April? Sounds like someone’s a little late to the party.
But I guess in Thailand it’s never too late to party. And by party, I mean close down the WHOLE country and party, not just for one day, but for three. Until about a week ago I had never heard about Songkran (Thai New Year) in my life, but it’s so big, it brings an entire nation to a stop!
Celebrations such as the Carnival in South America, Octoberfest in Germany and Holi in India are internationally renowned, but why doesn’t Songkran get a mention? Of these, I’ve only ever celebrated The Carnival in Brazil, but I might even go as far as saying that Songkran tops it.. or at least comes on par to Brazil’s Carnival. Maybe it was me living under a rock, but I’m actually perplexed that living out in multicultural Sydney, I had never heard of the Songkran celebrations.
I must admit, even though these New Year celebrations are four months too late, it does make a little sense. It’s the month of Aries! And as a Aries baby myself, that in itself is a reason to party.
Aries is the beginning of the Hindu, Brahmin Solar Calendar, making it the first day of the year. This coincides with the March Equinox. Now things make a little more sense.. Technically I have participated in this celebration my whole life. Easter too, is held the first Sunday, after the full moon, after the March Equinox. But they couldn’t be more different.
The beauty about Songkran, is there’s something for everyone -from babies to the elderly. However, regardless of your age, prepare to get wet.
So firstly, what’s the water business about?
Renewal. Cleansing. Besides having the one opportunity in the year to playfully interact with a complete stranger, you’re technically blessing them: removing their wrongdoings from the previously year and welcoming them cleanly into the new year. (Although, by day three this does get tiring.) Just when you’re starting to get dry and you really don’t want to see another drop of water in your life again, you will be drench once more from head to foot.
But I did make the most of my time. Over my three days in Bangkok during the festivities, I managed to celebrate with the party goers, the children, the rich tourists and the families.
The Party Goers go on for hours. Even the police can’t stop them (I’m not kidding, they actually came through at one point telling people to calm down -but celebrations just picked off where they had finished). I spent most of my night in the big street of Khao San, standing almost back to back with thousands of other people dancing, drinking and throwing water at whoever I could.
The Children have their fun as well. On another day we headed out to Lumpini Park, a big park in the middle of Bangkok, which was filled with food stalls and of course children’s rides. Here you’ll also hear traditional music and dance, live comedians and see, once again, children in the midst of the water throwing.
The Rich Tourists in their fancy playground. If you want to avoid the street, head up to a fancy hotel, out onto their rooftop pool, grab a cocktail and water fight people from inside the pool.
The Families are everywhere. The whole event is really tailored for everyone to be out and about. During the day there’s food stalls, stages, designated water fighting areas, shows and of course the countryside where families will traditionally be returning home to visit their elders.
It does make me realise how similar we all are – no matter where we come from, or where we’re up to in life, we all like a good party. So with that, Happy Songkran and may we go cleanly into the New Year.