Songkran Festival 2017: Photos of Thailand's Annual Water-Splashing Celebration
Celebrations for Songkran, also known as Thailand's New Year festival, are kicking off in various parts of south and southeast Asia to mark the beginning of the Buddhist solar calendar. Songkran is celebrated in various ways, but most commonly with lighthearted, organized water-fights in public spaces.
Water is hugely symbolic for the Thai people and is meant to signify cleansing and purification. The tradition began in temples as a form of Buddhist "merit-making" — locals would make a pilgrimage to temples to make offerings of food to Buddhist monks and pour water on the body of Buddha statues to wash away sins and bad luck, a ritual known as song nam phra. Much like Christmas celebrations in the West, Songkran is a holiday where families travel long distances to celebrate together. As a sign of respect to elders, younger family members will wash the feet of their parents or the elderly in water that has been scented with rose and jasmine flowers.
Additionally, families take the time to do some spring cleaning to also rid homes of bad energy and set the tone for the new year.
While these gentler water traditions still remain important to the Thai people, they are largely overshadowed by the more playful water festivities made popular by the younger Thais, tourists, and other visitors who enjoy taking part. Local authorities often close streets and designate areas where residents can fill buckets of water, water guns, and hose down fellow revelers in the name of Songkran.
Check out our slideshow above and let celebrants in Thailand and Laos show you how it's done!