13th April is just a regular date for many around the world but in Thailand, it marks the beginning of the Thai New Year celebrations, otherwise known as Songkran. In Thailand and many other countries in Southeast Asia, the astrological chart is key to proceedings and the rise of Aries marks the beginning of a new calendar. The word ’Songkran’ itself is derived from sankrānti, a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘astrological passage’ which relates to the rise of Aries.
The Songkran Festival runs for three days thus finishing on the 15th April and is full of traditions. As it is in tangent with the Buddhist/Hindu calendar, the day typically starts with ‘merit-making’ through mindfulness, meditation, or any other method and continues with visits to local temples. Pouring water over Buddha statues is also a tradition as it is symbolic for the washing away of all sins and bad luck.
As a whole, Songkran celebrates unity which is why all family members make the trip home during this time, even those that have moved away. Paying respect to elders is also a big theme of celebrations and younger members of the family can be found pouring water over elder members palms to show this respect. The famous ‘water festival’ is often seen as the centrepiece of the event where whole streets are closed off for water fights for all ages as well as parades of decorated cars; a ‘Miss Songkran’ contest showing off traditional Thai dresses is also held.
Different areas of Thailand have different traditions; for example in the South, they have additional rules like to spend little money which means that they buy essentials in advance. In the North, firecrackers and guns are fired to steer the bad luck away. In the East, merit-making is done all the way through the festival at temples. Finally in Central Thailand, the releasing of animals such as birds, fish and more recently cows is completed for merit.
There are no dishes traditionally associated with Songkran, but we have created our own menu and invite you to celebrate Songkran with us and enjoy some Thai cuisine at The Lime Leaf.