One of the high spots of the Thai calendar is the annual New Year Celebration, or Songkran, which falls on or around April 13, when the sun moves into Aries, and lasts for three days or more. The word ‘Songkran’ originates from the Sanskrit meaning ‘beginning of the solar year’. The holiday-loving Thais therefore get to celebrate New Year three times each year: the Western New Year on January 1, the Chinese New Year in February and the Thai New Year in April.
Traditionally, Thais visit temples at this time of year to offer food to the monks and to participate in bathing ceremonies for Buddha images. At home, young people pour scented water into the hands of their parents and elders as a mark of respect and to receive the blessing of the older folk.
Another custom is the releasing of small fish into rivers and canals. This merit-making act is thought to come from the old practice of collecting small fish from dried out pools, to keep and later release back into the wild.
These days, Songkran has turned into a water-throwing funfest, in which anyone and everyone is liable to get thoroughly drenched-a blessed relief in this, the hottest season of the year.
The water-throwing custom have come from the mythical belief that sea serpents or ‘naga’ bring on the rains by spouting water from the sea. Water throwing may therefore have been a rainmaking custom to guarantee ample water for next year’s crops.