The New Year is celebrated in Thailand from April 13 through April 15. The name for the festival, Songkran, means “astrological passage” and refers to the entry of the sun into the sign of Aries, the start of the zodiac.
Water is an important symbol of the festival, signifying both purification and renewal. Water is poured over statues of Buddha. Young people wash the palms of their elders with scented water. Water fights break out in the streets: buckets of water and water guns are employed to get everyone wet.
Young girls purchase small live fish and take them to the river to set them free. The same is done with songbirds. Along the river banks, people build pyramids of sand into which they stick tiny colored flags. The newest customs include beauty festivals to choose a Miss Songkran and gifts of towels (to sop up all the water).
New Year is also celebrated at this time of year in Sri Lanka, where people celebrate by visiting friends and families, giving gifts, and attending dances and concerts. This is a time for reflection on the past year and for offering forgiveness to those who have hurt or harmed you so the new year can begin free from anger.
In Burma, people throw water at each other and also play jokes and tricks, similar to April Fools’ Day. All rules are ignored, and no one is supposed to get angry about being soaked or tricked. This holiday provides a chance to learn that it is okay to be foolish.
As with many New Year customs, it’s good to clean your house and wear new and/or colorful clothes (like Easter clothes). I love that there are so many New Year holidays in the year. If you need another start to your year, you might use this one.
Waverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”