Asian cultures generally celebrate their symbolic New Year with prayers, colorful processions, good food and sometimes even fireworks. The people of Thailand have added one more tradition - Having the world's largest water fight!
Celebrated annually from April 13th to 15th, the Songkran Festival marks the beginning of the solar year and is considered to be the most important festival for the 60 million residents of Thailand - So significant that until 1888, this was also the beginning of a new calendar year for the country. Though the dates were originally based on the Astrological calculations they are now fixed - 13th (the Maha Songkran) marks the end of the previous year, 14th (Wan Nao) is a gap day and 15th (Wan Thaloeng Sok) marks the beginning of the New Year.
The water festival began accidently - One of the religious rituals performed during this festival is pray to Lord Buddha and follow it up with a bathing ceremony for the statue. The blessed water from the bathing is then poured gently onto elders and family members to give them good fortune. Over the years, this gentle pouring has turning into a free-for-all water fight which many believe, was an idea inspired by the Indian spring festival of Holi.
While water dousing occurs throughout the country it is the city of Chiang Mai that seems to go all out. After the religious ceremonies are completed, groups of residents move around on scooters, the back of pick-up trucks and even elephants, carrying water guns and buckets filled with water. Those not fortunate enough or too young to have a mode of transport, simply gather by the roadside with large ice-chests of water. To make the fights a little more exciting, ice patrols roam the streets, handing out the giant chunks so that the water can be nice and chilled when it hits the bodies! Fortunately, the festival dates coincide with Thailand's hottest months so the cold water is actually welcomed.
When it first began, the water fights were held from midday to sunset on April 13th. Now, they sometimes extend out to all days and all times! So if you happen to be in Thailand during these dates next year, be sure to watch out, for nobody is safe from getting drenched at this wet and wild festival!
Resources: gizmag,com, journeymart.com, wikipedia.org