Happy water festival – mind the elephant gun

This week four countries in South East Asia celebrated their traditional new year. In Thailand the festival is known as Songkran. Usanee tells us why the people in Thailand look forward to this festival.

I am so happy to have 5 days off. It is the longest holiday I would have for this year. Songkran Festival means a lot for Thai people. Those who come to work in a big city will go back to their hometowns to visit thier parents or love ones. People across the country enjoy playing water. So do the foreigners who are in Thailand.

Songkran in Chiang Mai

Playing with water!! Yes, this festival is also known as Water Festival. Cam on Cam, a tourist in Thailand says

The thai new year approaches. Walking the street of chiang mai, we find ourselves at the epicenter of Thailand's water-filled celebration. Thousands line the moat that envelops the city's “old town”. Traffic crawls slowly down the crowded street, a friendly war in process as the rowdy inhabitants of pick-up truck beds feud in aqueous glee with the bucket-armed population spanning the moat's extensive length. 50-somethings clad with super-soaker guns chase after 5-year-old tricksters; the young ones are laughing ecstatically, with such freedom and beauty, their joyful victory known by an empty bucket in hand and a soaked target.

Kids with buckets looking for their next target

Moe Moe writes about the significance of water. In Myanmar, the festival is called Thingyan.

Burmese in Burma would actually be making special foods for this time of year, they would be out and about throwing water on passers by, going to “Mundutts” – concert stages where there are dancing, singing, and people standing around with water hoses, water balloons, buckets of water, etc to throw it upon whoever is passing by. This is to, of course, cleanse them of their sins, worries, whatever is bogging them down, so they can start their new year fresh.

Myanmar Thingyan
Thingyan in Myanmar
Thingyan in Myanmar. Image from flappingwings flickr.

Dawn remembers her childhood Thingyan

When I was a kid, every time April comes around, and I hear the Thingyan songs, I'll already get excited and anticipate of how I'll have fun in Thingyan. I'll be waiting in front of the house, holding either a small bucket or a water-gun and spraying water on people who passed by. I was just a kid so I couldn't splash water at passing cars mainly because I couldn't carry the water bucket! Sometimes, my father will take us downtown by bus, and we'll watch the dancers at City Hall pavilion, sitting under the spraying water. Sometimes, when my father was in a good mood, he'll take us around the town with the car, and let us get wet. It was fun when I was younger

Jes, another tourist in Thailand, encounters an older Songkran tradition.

You are approached by an older person. She carries a small silver bowl filled with white paste. You are surprised when she dips her hand into the bowl and then smears some paste on your face! A friend whispered that this is one of the oldest Songkran traditions. The white paste is supposed to protect you from evil. You are supposed to allow this adult to apply the paste to your face and neck. Furthermore, you are supposed to leave the paste on until it washes off without any help from you!

In Lao, the festival is called Koudsongkhane. Minh links to an article that describes a Laotian new year tradition – sand stupa making.

There are two ways for sand stupas making. The first way is the monks and novices and local people go the sand beach and make the sand stupas as big as they like. The another way, the villagers brought the sand from the sand beach to make the sand stupa in the pagoda yard. The sand stupa decorated with many types of flags, flowers, white lime and watered by perfume water. Finally, the sand stupas are granted to the monks for merits making.

Chal Chnam Thmey is how the festival is known in Cambodia. Atomicshogun has more about the Cambodian ways of celebrating on her blog.

Laksamee lists why she loves the Songkran festival

1. It involves waterguns
2. You can't drive anywhere because everywhere there are people on the side of the rode, on motorcycles and in trucks, all carrying water and all ready to drench you.
3. It's freaking 105 degrees outside

Yes, it is very hot in the region this time of the year. Some people actually chill the water with ice before spraying it.

And perhaps the best reason for loving this festival

8. Some places have elephants, which make for the best watergun EVER

Laksamee also has some things that might dampen the festive spirit.

1. People party so hard that something like 600 people die every year. Thus showing that motorcycles and alchohal do not mix well.
2. Your car will get dirty

and of course

5. You might eat too much

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