The Hungarians aren’t the only ones dousing each other with water this April. The Thais are traditionally known to celebrate the Songkran festival as the traditional New Year's Day from 13 to 15 April by splashing water. The Songram festival coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia.
The most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water. Thais roam the streets with containers of water or water guns (sometimes mixed with mentholated talc), or post themselves at the side of roads with a garden hose and drench each other and passersby. This, however, was not always the main activity of this festival. Songkran was traditionally a time to visit and pay respects to elders, including family members, friends, neighbors, and monks.
The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddhas for cleansing and then using this "blessed" water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. Among young people the holiday evolved to include dousing strangers with water to relieve the heat, since April is the hottest month in Thailand (temperatures can rise to over 100°F or 40°C on some days). This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.
Nowadays, the emphasis is on fun and water-throwing rather than on the festival's spiritual and religious aspects, which sometimes prompts complaints from traditionalists. In recent years there have been calls to moderate the festival to lessen the many alcohol-related road accidents as well as injuries attributed to extreme behavior such as water being thrown in the faces of traveling motorcyclists.
Picture courtesy: AP / Wason Wanichakorn, AP / David Longstreath, AFP/ Getty Images / Madaree Tohlala, AP / Sakchai Lalit, AFP/ Getty Images / Pornchai Kittiwongsakul
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