Flickr. Songkran. Ayutthaya, Thailand. 9, James Antrobus. CC BY NC 2.0
At JustCall, we’ve travelled the world in search of the most interesting, unique, and outright fun experiences we could find, and amongst the most colourful and memorable is Songkran.
Sometimes called Major Songkran (there are 12 different Songkran dates each year, but this is the big one!), the festival runs from 13th-15th April and marks the Thai New Year.
It’s worth noting that Thailand does officially celebrate New Year on January 1st - in line with most other countries - but Songkran remains in its traditional place around the vernal equinox. Cultural events around this equinox aren’t uncommon in Asia, with festivals such as Holi in India taking place around the same time.
Flickr. Songkran, Madeleine Deaton. CC BY NC 2.0
The tradition of throwing water, probably the most famous part of the celebrations, symbolises the washing away of old sins in time for the New Year. What’s more, if you stumble across a group of monks you could find yourself covered in chalk powder! This throwing of powder is another similarity to the Indian Holi celebrations - and not really surprising given that many believe the two festivals may share a common ancestry.
The enormous water fights taking place in the streets are huge fun, but if you’re in Thailand for this year’s Songkran then be sure to wear appropriate clothing and to leave your valuables somewhere safe - unless you want a soaked mobile phone.
Flickr. Songkran, theSuperStar. CC BY NC 2.0
Songkran also involves the young people of Thailand sprinkling water over their elders as mark of respect and as a blessing for the New Year. This sprinkling takes a much gentler form than the excited water-throwing on the streets and is a deeply spiritual event. Scented water is poured by a younger Thai person over the shoulder and down the back of their elder. Pouring the water in this manner - while uttering words of blessing for the New Year - symbolises cleansing and a refreshment of the spirit.
It’s not just people who are drenched at Songkran though. Houses are decluttered, unnecessary items cast aside and images of the Buddha given a thorough wash, all part of the process of spiritual cleansing. The people of Thailand also make offerings of food and new robes to local monks in this time of charity.
Flickr. Thai Green Chicken Curry, jules. CC BY NC 2.0
Songkran is also a great opportunity to try out some of the many delicious, traditional Thai foods. Everyone will have their own personal favourites, but at JustCall we’re particularly fond of Geng Kheaw Wan (Green Curry), often made using chicken and rich coconut milk.
Flickr. Songkran-16, John Shedrick. CC BY NC 2.0
We’d highly recommend experiencing Songkran for yourself, but if you’re stuck in the UK this year you can still send your blessings to friends and family. Thanks to cheap international calls to Thailand from Justcall, you can keep in touch with the people you love for less with great rates on mobile and landline calls - just don’t try throwing water down the phone.