Monday, April 15, 2013

What is Songkran and why does it resemble Carnaval?


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Songkran in Thailand is the New Year. Its the celebration of the New Lunar Year. This year is the beginning of the year 2556, 543 more years than the Gregorian Calendar. Songkran is the celebration of the South East Asian peoples´ New Year. But don´t be fooled, not because this is their New Year do they not celebrate the Western New Year or the Chinese New Year. They celebrate all three and I think that´s amazing. In Peru , we celebrate the Gregorian New Year to the max, and Chinese New Year in Chinatown and in La 73.  Here in Bangkok, all three are celebrated widely. But what I find most impressive is how Songkran is mostly celebrated with water fights in the street, just like the Carnavales in South America. 

Songkran and Carnaval are two very different festivities but both have adopted this aquatic cathartic practice of getting each other soaked. Songkran is not only celebrated with waterguns and buckets, there are also many rituals performed in the Wats and people can do a lot of merit making, like building sand chedis or cleaning Buddha statues with water.  That is where the water fights originated from, the practice of spilling water on your loved ones to cleanse them of the previous year and start a fresh one. The festivities also represent the beginning of summer and the rains. 

I´m not sure if its a new thing, but many people are using shirts a blouses of bright colors with white flowers. Carnavales in South America originate from a Christian celebration, the permission for people to do "anything" before the beginning of Lent.   The throwing water practice is only one of many Carnaval celebrations but one of the most memorable. The entire month of February you will get wet on the street and you can in return get anyone wet. Curiously, Carnaval is also in the summer. In South America and in Thailand, they use the heat as an excuse for water guns and buckets of cool water. Any lover of  water Carnavales needs to come to Thailand for Songkran.  There is nothing more memarable than watching thousands of people getting each other wet and the firefighters using their firehose to douse the crowds, for hours. The dates for Songkran are from April 13 to April 17, it is celebrated countrywide and in most Southeast Asian countries like Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.  

Links to more Songkran and posts
Crazy Little Family Adventure´s photos in Soi Cowboy    Day 1   Day 3

Songran in Phuket by Willy ThuanSongkran for Aussies 
Official Songkran site