Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year which starts on April 13 every year and it lasts for 3 days. Songkran festival on April 13 is the day to mark the end of the old year and it is called Maha Songkran Day. On the second day, April 14, is Wan Nao and on April 15 is Wan Thaloeng Sok which when the New Year begins. This is the time when people from rural areas working in the city usually return home to celebrate the festival. Bangkok on these three days has a deserted look.
Songkran in Thai language means to move or change place as it the day when the sun changes its position in the zodiac. Songkran festival is also known as Water Festival as people believe that water washes away bad luck.
Songkran is a family celebration which lays a lot of emphasis on the traditional values of community, society and religion. This festival gives an opportunity to family members to gather and express their respect for elders by pouring scented water on their hands and present them with gifts. The elders in return wish the younger generation prosperity and good luck.
The festival is viewed as a means of creating unity in the community. People meet each other to wish and take part in the celebrations together. This is the time when people from the society cooperate and lend a helping hand in cleaning temples, public places and official building. Songkran is also the time for religious beliefs where people offers alms to monks, listen to sermons and practice monk bathing.
After the traditional bathing ritual of Buddha images and monks, in the afternoon, young and old splash water on each other. The most popular Songkran festival takes place in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. Here the festival is celebrated from April 13 to April 15. People from different parts of Thailand descend into Chiang Mai to take part in the celebrations and watch the parades and Miss Songkran contest.
While in Bangkok Songkran Festival is celebrated in a different way. Buddhasihing, the Buddha image in the National Museum is brought out at Sanam Luang, opposite the Grand Palace, so that people can sprinkle scented water on the image.