#1 Best Guide: Songkran Festival In Thailand

สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์ (sùksǎn wan sǒŋkraan)! Or should I say, “Happy Songkran!” or even “Happy Thai New Year!”. However you say it, people will reply with excitement. After all, Songkran Festival or เทศกาลสงกรานต์ (thêetsakaan sǒŋkraan) is the Thai new year.

The festival typically spans three days from April 13th to April 15th. However, this year in 2024, it’s going to be a three-week long affair, spanning from April 1st to April 21st! Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Also, the holiday differs across the different regions of Thailand.

I am sure many people have heard of this famous holiday. It makes for a very memorable experience. For those who want to know more or are preparing to go, here is a look at everything you need to know about Songkran including a glimpse of its history and how it is celebrated. 

What Is Songkran?

Songkran (สงกรานต์) is the name that was given to the Thai new year, one of the many new year celebrations across the world. Like Tet in Vietnam and the Lunar New Year in China, it is celebrating the beginning of a new year based on their calendar. Songkran was said to have begun upon the death of the Thai deity of good fortune. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit language, where it meant to pass or move into.

This holiday is actually celebrated in other countries too – not just Thailand. Laos, for example, also celebrate a similar holiday. Some parts of Malaysia also join in, especially near the border with Thailand. Even some groups in India celebrate a similar holiday around the same time.


When Is Songkran?

As mentioned earlier, Songkran typically spans three days from April 13th to April 15th. The actual day is April 13th, but the holiday period extends from April 14th to 15th.

This year in 2024, however, it will be extended from April 1st to April 21st! But this isn’t the first extension, as the Thai government extended Songkran to be celebrated from April 9th to April 16th back in 2018.

The true ‘new year’ in Thailand actually takes place on the 1st of January, like in the West. Songkran can now be seen as the ‘traditional’ new year, though many celebrate both as an important occasion.

An image of people celebrating Songkran

How Is Songkran celebrated?

The Thai new year celebrations has been given the nickname ‘the water festival’ for reasons anyone who has visited during the holidays will understand. Taking place during some of the hottest days of the year, many people celebrate by splashing water at others. Whether using a bucket, water gun or bottle of water, people go out to the streets during the day and splash each other. It is actually quite refreshing in the heat. Just make sure you buy a waterproof cover for your phone and money. You should avoid wearing your best clothes and shoes too. It is better to be safe than sorry!

Of course, there is a lot more that goes on than just the water fights. In the morning, merit-making takes place. Many people will visit Buddhist temples and offer food and other items to the monks. Water still plays a role here, with some people pouring water onto the statues. This, along with splashing others, is meant to represent purification. It symbolizes washing away bad luck. Some also say that the use of water will help to promote plenty of rain over the coming year.

Chalk is also a common element during Songkran. Much like monks use chalk to mark blessings, people smear chalk over others as a way to bless them. It is not uncommon to see people walking around with their face covered in chalk during the festival.

An image of three people shooting water at one another

5 Steps To Enjoy Songkran

 1. Get Ready!

The first step of course is to get ready, or should I say, เตรียมพร้อม (triamphrɔ́ɔm). So make sure you have all the things you need prepared before the day comes! Here’s a list of what you should have:

  • Get a water gun or ปืนฉีดน้ำ (pʉʉn chìit náam) in Thai, a bucket or ถัง (thǎŋ) in Thai, and whatever you can bring to ensure you can splash away the other’s bad luck.
  • Keep your cash and cards tucked somewhere safe in a plastic sachet and don’t even think about carrying unnecessary valuables with you before going out because nothing will be dry in the end of the day. All gun and waterproof stuff is sold all along the city, in any mall or 7/11 with variety colors and different shapes.
  • It’s going to be hot and you’re going to get wet, so it’s best to wear something light. Don’t forget to protect yourself from UV rays with sunscreen and sunglasses too!

2. It’s Water Fight Time

So now you got everything in order, it’s the time to get out there and get soaked.

The water fight is all over the country. In Chiang Mai, you can be splashed right after 1 step out of the door but most crowded area of course is around the moat or คูเมือง (khuumʉaŋ) of the Old City. People will usually walk around the moat and shooting everything is moving on the way.

You may be wondering, what about the traffic? Sure, there’s still lots of bikes, trucks, and cars on the road, but since everyone else will be walking, just go along with the flow and you’ll be perfectly fine.

Then what you do next is make yourself be a child again, aim and shoot, have lots of fun!

3. It’s Pool Party Time

Wherever you may be in Thailand, you definitely wouldn’t want to miss the pool party!

Held typically on April 13th, these parties feature DJs, drinks, and everything you need to enjoy the rest of the day. So get wet, celebrate to your heart’s content, and enjoy the incredible sunset by the pool.

4. Food For Your Stomach

There are plenty of street food around cities in Thailand, lots of choices. For example, not too far from Le Méridien Hotel, Chiang Mai, there’s a night market called “Ploen Ruddee” or เพลินฤดี ไนท์มาร์เก็ต (phləən ruudii Night Market) with a wide variety of food such as Western and Thai cuisine available. You can also find live music and lots of drinks like smoothies there, so it’s definitely worth a visit.

5. Have Fun and Show Respect

While having good time during Songkran, you also need to be respectful. So wear appropriate clothes, and don’t shoot monks, children, or drivers. Try not to drive during these days especially after drinking, because the road will be wet and slippery.

As festive as Songkran may be, this period is also often called the “the 7 days of death” as many unfortunate drink-driving incidents happen. So keep your guard up and stay vigilant!

Songkran is also a good opportunity to see the more traditional side of Thai New Year, so try to wake up early and see Thais going to the temples to make merit. That way, you’d understand the beauty of Thailand much better.

Useful Thai Words And Phrases For Songkran

An image of water being poured onto a pair of hands

The Joy Of The Holidays

Songkran is not only a time of purification and rebirth, but also a time for fun and relaxing. The mixture of traditional celebrations with the more modern activities, it is a busy time of year – and a great time to visit Thailand.

However, you should still be respectful of others and think before you splash someone who isn’t holding a water gun or who is just going about their day. They may be carrying an expensive laptop or equipment which you will likely end up paying for. Also, be wary that traffic and crime increase over these holidays, so please stay safe. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy your Songkran. Happy Songkran or สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์ (sùksǎn wan sǒŋkraan)!

Think you are ready to take part in Songkran? Prepare for the new year by learning Thai using the Ling App. It will help you learn the important words and phrases that will make your stay easier and more enjoyable.

Updated by: Gwyn

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