Songkran is the Thai New Year’s national holiday. Songkran is 13 April every year, but the holidays period extends from 14-15 April.
This year, the Thai cabinet extended Songkran to five days, 12–16 April. Songkran holiday also gives an opportunity to citizens to travel home during this period.
Before Thailand adopted the international New Year’s Day in 1940, Thai people calculated Songkran based on the Solar Calendar, which varied from one year to the next. The word “Songkran” comes from Sanskrit, as many words in the Thai language, and literally means “astrological passage” – signifying transformation or change. The change signified by the Thai new year is the end of the dry season and the beginning of the annual rain.
The term Songkran was borrowed from Makar Sankranti, which is the name of a Hindu harvest festival. This festival was celebrated in India in January. In keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar, many calendars of South and Southeast Asia coincide with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart and its passing into Taurus. It also coincides with the New Year.
Astrology and the importance placed on the movements of heavenly bodies are very important for the Thais. They have adopted a 12-year cycle which aligns somewhat with the 12 astrological signs of the Zodiac.
Thai New Year is also a time for making merit during this celebration rich with symbolic traditions. Many people visiting temples, doing merit-making, and offering food to the monks.
Songkran Festival is by far the most important and the most celebrated event of the year for the Thai people. It represents a time of enjoyment and also a special time to show respect for water. Water is the most important element in the rural culture of Southeast Asia. Today, it is translated by giant water battles in the whole country.