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Songkran is the most famous of Thai festivals and celebrates the Thai New Year, in tourist areas such as Pattaya and Chiang Mai the festivities can last a week or more, for many it is great fun, for others it's time to take a trip out of Thailand to get away from the madness.

Songkran is also known to have the greatest amount of road deaths and injuries during the holiday period, drunk people riding round in the back of pick up trucks throwing water over other drunk people riding around in the backs of pick up trucks is a recipe for disaster as they discover each year after announcing the death and injury figures.

Songkran 2007
Songkran in Sena
Songkran in Pattaya
Songkran in New Zealand
Songkran in America

Other Thai Festivals

Loy Krathong
King Taksin Day

You can learn more about Thai culture and festivals in our Thai Festivals Forum.

Thai New Year's Day

Below is an article Translated by.Mr. Sa-Ngiam Ekachote and Dr. Somboon Duangsamosorn

Songkran Definition

According to the dictionary of the Royal Institute which was printed in B.E. 2525, the word “year” has been defined as a circle of time in which the earth moves around the sun, taking about 365 days or 12 months according to the solar calendar.

The twelfth edition of the Thai dictionary of the Royal Institute (revision) has given the meaning of “YEAR” as follows :

- Year : means the time measurement which is equivalent to 12 months or 365-366 days. Traditionally Thai people observe a circle of 12 years, each year has its own name and is symbolised by animals.
They are listed in order from number one to number twelve as follows :

Chad is symbolised by the rat; Chalue by the ox; Khan by the tiger; Thor by the hare; Marong by naga or king of the snake; Maseng by a small snake; Mamia by a horse; Mamae by a goat; Wog by a monkey; Raga by a rooster; Jor by a dog and Gune by a pig.
Sometimes, the year is called by the name of the symbolic animal such as the year of the monkey or the year of the goat.

Songkran Background

In ancient times, most countries defined their own New Year’s Day according to their own judgement.
Some thought that the new year should begin in winter since the cloudy rains were over and the sky became as bright as dawn.
Summer is as sunny and hot as midday, so it is taken as the middle of the year.
In the Rainy season the sky is usually grey with clouds and showers which hindered people from going out.
So they compared it to night time which was the end of the day.
Thus they placed rainy season at the end of the year.
The first month of the year, therefore took place in the traditional Thai Duan Aye (means the first month), and Thai Duen Sibsong (the twelfth month) is the last month of the year.
In the old days the first day of the month also started with the first day of the waning moon.
Then they changed that; and the month began with the first day of the waxing moon.

“Duan Aye” starting from the waning moon of the twelfth month is the last day of the year.
Later someone changed to the bright time as the beginning of the time: the brighter time as the middle of the time, and the less-bright as the end of the time, being similar to the beginning of the day and of the day and year as mentioned above.

According to an ancient German tradition, a year was divided into 2 seasons: Winter and Summer.
New Year started around the end of November, during this period in many regions of the world, the weather started to get cold and the winter time started.
At this theme, those people who has gone to work elsewhere in summer and finished their harvesting returned to their homes and celebrated the new year.

Later, the Roman Empire intruded on the German Empire and moved the time to celebrate New Year to the first of January.

Ancient countries such as Egypt, Phoenicia and Iran stared the New Year in the middle of autumn festival which was around 21st of September.

Yonok before the Buddhist Era started New Year around the 21st December about the same as Romans.
But in Caesar’s period, the Julian pattern was set up, and, then, New Year’s became the first of January.

The Jewish had 2 forms of New Years :
1. Officially the New Year started from the 6th of September - 5th of October and
2. Religiously the New Year started from the 21st of March.

In the beginning of the Middle Ages, Christians started their New Year on the 25th of March and the English of Anglo - Saxon origin started their New Year on the 25th of December, that was coinciding with the day on which King William the Conqueror was crowned King of Great Britain.
Afterward, he moves New Year’s Day to the first of January but later on the British changed it back to the 25th of march like other European countries.

When the Gregorian Calendar started in the Year 1582, Roman Catholic countries adopted the New Year to be on the first of January again, and around 1,700, not beyond 1753, Britain adopted the first of January as a New Year’s Day too.

Ancient Chinese started their New Year on the beginning of the third month.
Hindus started on the first waxing moon day of the fifth month.

THAI RECORD Ancient Thais recorded New Year into 3 periods. 1. The New Year started according to a 12 year - cycle which was counted from the first waxing moon day of the fifth month and there was a ceremony at the end of each year.
2. The New Year started according to the Thai era that fell in around 13th of April (Songkran festival which was celebrated for 3 days):
The First day is Songkran day.
The second day is Resting day.
The third day is the New Year day.
3. The New Year of the solar calendar started on the first of April which was announced, in B.E. 2432, during King Rama V’s period and was traditionally celebrated for quite some time.

Later on, the government under the democratic system appointed a committee which suggested that the Thai New Year’s Day should follow the international New Year and announced the first of January as a New Year’s day, in B.E. 2484, according to the government’s announcement on 24th December 2483 which was as follows:

Traditionally, the first waning moon day of the first month or Duan Aye was accepted by the Thai people as New Year’s Day, in correspondence with the Buddhist Doctrine which regarded winter as the beginning of the year.
Later on, it was changed by the Brahman Doctrine that adopted the first waxing moon day of the fifth month as New Year’s Day.
Afterward, the government followed a Solar Calendar and has accepted the first of April as the first day of the year, since B.E. 2432.

As other countries world-wide adopted the first of January as New Year’s Day which was not related to their religions and political ideologies, but to astronomy, accepted more than 2,000 years-ago; it is therefore appropriate for Thailand to have adopted the solar calendar as other countries have done, because the first of January is closest to the first waning moon day and also when winter time begins.

The acceptance of the first of January as New Year’s Day would also be related to Thai ancient tradition which was related to Buddhist belief and would be shown as an equivalent standard to other nations.

Hence, the Royal announcement set up the calendar year act of B.E. 2483 by the suggestion approval of the parliament on 17th of September B.E. 2483 and promulgated on 17th of October B.E. 2483, and finally the government accepted the first day of January as New Year’s Day.

Therefore, there was the Royal announcement to the members of the Royal Family, Religious sectors and Thai people to accept the first of January as the first day of the year. Since its beginning in 2484, New Year’s Day is believed to have made the country and people of Thailand “prosperous and joyful”

At present, the government and Thai people traditionally celebrate their New Year as a great event to bring to them “Happy New Year” on the first of January.


People world-wide have the same belief that the beginning of the New Year is the time on which they should forget the past and start the new.
According to spiritual beliefs of the ancient Romans and Germans, they believed that it was the time to forget all the difficulties and time to accept only the good things which would arrive in the New Year.
Iranians had agreed that the new year was the time for the new generation to be born, time to celebrate the victory of the Sun God, nature and all human beings.
Zulus (in Africa) celebrated their New Year by having the first fruit feast, and male Zulus had to eat fresh meat as a symbol as a symbol of being healthy and strong for the coming year.

Cherokees (Red Indians) celebrated the New Year by gathering their own used clothes, and burning them, cleaning up their bed rooms and clearing all the old ash-stoves and starting their new fires on the following day which was regarded as New Year’s Day.
There was a party to celebrate for everyone who was wearing new clothes, fresh-boiled corn, wearing beads and turbans.
They threw away the old things, believing that the old year had passed, and within 3-4 days there was recreation, visiting of neighbours, and the releasing of prisoners.
Everyone was full of happiness in the coming year and hoped that God would bless them for the New Year.

In ancient English culture, before the New Year came they cleaned their chimneys to welcome the good-luck sign to come on the New Year’s Day.
They believed that good luck would come down through the chimney and remain for the whole year. The day before New Year’s Day, they climbed up to the roof in the evening and waited to see if something might happen when the New Year started.

Chinese, Japanese, Red-Indians in the North of USA and people in many countries have the same belief that they should throw away their old clothes, clean their accommodations and start their new fires.
Everything should be new and clean to welcome in New Year’s Day.
Some mentioned that wearing new clothes was psychologically described as “copying nature” for updating the time.
Even nature has also shown a happiness with new life. The world is full of new plants which produce new leaves, fruits and so do human beings.

Suggestions of activities on New Year’s Day.

To give knowledge of the background, values, and the importance of the New Year, the following activities should be organised:

1. Seminar by giving the background, values, and the importance of New Year’s Day.
2. Campaigning and distribution of information.
3. Other relevant activates such as:
- Cleaning schools, temples, offices and clothes, etc., to welcome the coming New year.
- Giving donations.
- Setting free of birds and fish.
- Visiting senior members of the family to be blessed.
- Giving each other gifts.
- Wishing a Happy New Year to each other.
- Sending New Year’s cards.
- Other appropriate activities.