We've been on a break from school this past week, and will be for another week, in part for the Songkran holiday. (Many Thai schools are actually in the middle of their summer break right now.) Songkran is celebrated in Thailand from April 13 to April 15 as the Thai new year. This will be the third new year that I will have experienced already this year: January 1 under the Gregorian calendar, the lunar new year, and now the Thai new year. Thailand uses the Buddhist calendar, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar, so it is actually the year 2557 in Thailand right now. We are truly living in the future here!
I've been told that Songkran is one of the biggest and most favored holiday in Thailand. A well-known tradition of Songkran is the throwing of water on others. People will roam the streets with containers of ice water and water guns to soak others. I've been told that the Thai people especially love surprising the farangs and soaking them from top to bottom. Many streets will be closed off for people, ice trucks, and fire engines to partake in these water festivities.
Besides these water-related activities, people also will smear talc powder or paste on their own and others' faces and bodies as a blessing for the new year. They also may go pay respect to their elders and other family members, or go to a wat to pray.
However, even though this will be our first Songkran, we won't be in Thailand to celebrate it in true Thai style. We decided to leave for a couple of reasons. First, it occurred to us that, with Songkran being such a major holiday, our party-animal neighbors may very well be throwing a days-long party, which would make staying here impossible. We were also advised by other Thai people to leave the country because it will be pretty out of control here with many, many people getting drunk and driving drunk. And last, but not least, we wanted to take advantage of this long break to check off another place on our travel list.
Last Friday, on the last day of school before this break, there was an all-school celebration of Songkran at our school. Students from all sections performed dances and flicked water on the staff and student body. Their costumes were gorgeous and they did an amazing job! Happy New Year!