มีความสุขปีใหม่ – Happy New (Thai) Year! I just came back from celebrating Songkran Festival Tampa and got a short video plus photos from Wat Mongkolratanaram. BUT! Before I get to those, I would love for you to learn more about Songkran’s history, customs and traditions beyond the multi-day big fun water fight 😉 It is, after all, Cultural Tidbits Monday on LatinAbroad!
Thai New Year: Songkran Festival history
Songkran, which literally means “astrological passage” and comes from the Sanskrit word “saṃkrānti,” is the festival that marks Thai New Year (Wikipedia). Currently, it is celebrated annually between April 13 – 15 — but that wasn’t always the case.
Back in ancient times, a new year was marked by the first sign of waning of the moon in the first month of the lunar calendar (around late November). For this reason, dates were never fixed. Then, King Rama V made history by changing Thai New Year dates twice — sticking to April 1st in 1888 (WatTampaInEnglish.com).
You thought they would be done switching the New Year date on the poor Thai people by then though, right…? But nope! In 1940, shortly after Thailand became a constitutional monarchy, New Year was to be celebrated at the beginning of the Gregorian calendar: January 1st.
After the switch though, Songkran Festival became a National Holiday and, even today, it is still known as Thai New Year. Thus, one could say that Thais have about 2-3 different New Year dates and celebrations, depending on their background: January 1st, April 13-15, and late January – February (Chinese New Year).
Songkran Festival customs and traditions
Despite the different New Year dates throughout the centuries, most traditional celebrations are held in April. Why is that? As Songkran customs and traditions include the visitation and honoring of elders, sand pagoda building, gift exchanges, and the ubiquitous water splashing, it is better to celebrate during the hottest month of the year. Not only are the months of January and February are too cold, but they are also quite busy in rural areas, as it is harvest season.
Other customs and traditions we observed during this year’s Songkran Festival Tampa included a parade to lead a Buddha Statue, the subsequent clockwise circling of the Main Temple (3 times), and the Pundit leading chants as sprinkled perfumed water and flower petals to the Buddha statues, monks, and elders.
After the traditional processions, everybody is encouraged to sprinkle each other with the perfumed water used to cleanse the Buddhas, as this is considered a blessing, good fortune and health for the New Year. As you will judge by the following Wat Mongkolratanaram photos and video, I shall have a quite prosperous 2014-2015! 😉
Songkran Festival Tampa VIDEO and photos!
Before processions began, we had a wonderful USD $5 lunch in the peaceful, riverfront grounds of Wat Mongkolratanaram. What’s really cool is that they have a massive amount of options: from 4-5 different types of curries to aromatic noodle soups and Thai desserts! A full review of the wonderful Sunday meals at this Thai Temple will follow on a future post, though. Now, onto the Songkran Festival Tampa video and more photos from Wat Mongkolratanaram grounds! 😀
^^ just a teaser! Longer one coming up soon 😉