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Songkran • สงกรานต์

Observations and Background as of 2024 / 2567


✈ Recognized by UNESCO as 'intangible cultural heritage'

Songkran, Thailand's famous water festival, boasts a rich and fascinating history that blends Hindu, Buddhist, and ancient Thai traditions. The ususal in western countries promoted 'heavy water fights' are only one aspect, usually favoured by the youngsters. But it is so much more.

As it was recognized by the UNESCO as 'intangible cultural heritage' in 2024 / 2567, we decided to have a closer look - and experience it on location. (Hua Hin, Thailand).

✈ Historical Background

Deriving from the Sanskrit language, the word Songkran means to pass or to move into. In this context, the meaning implies to the passing and the moving of the sun, the moon and the other planets into a new zodiacal orbit. And the Grand Songkran Festival which falls in Aries indicates the new era of the Thai New Year. Owing to the ancient Indian belief, the Grand Songkran Festival is most appropriate to be the Thai New Year due to the timing of the best season which is known as the spring of India which comes right after the cold season of winter. Also, there are other aspects supporting this belief such as blooming flowers, the fresh atmosphere of nature and the livelihood of all living creatures.

With the great influence from the Indians, the Songkran Festival portrays the typical ways of life of the Thais which involve the agricultural aspects. Free from their regular routine work, the Thai citizens will find time to perform their annual rites of showing respect to their ancestors. The highlight of the festival will include the younger Thais paying respect to their elders by sprinkling their hands with scented water (picture on top). And in order to welcome the New Year, the celebration will include the delightful colourful local entertainment, which in fact, suitably unites the mutual relationship between members of the family, society, nature and the surroundings. Therefore, this Songkran Festival has proved to be the most important and grandest festival of the year. Moreover, the neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos have also organised similiar this types of this festival.

During the Sukhothai period (1238–1438), the Songkran Festival was practised both in the royal court palace and among the ordinary citizens. However, the size of the celebration was not as elaborate as of today. Back in those days, civil servants and other government officials would pay homage to the king, and would drink the oath of allegiance to the king or the government, while the king would provide an annual salary to all officials. Later on in the Ayutthaya period (1351–1767), the festival was expanded by including the bathing of the Buddha image. Also, the festivities would include the forming of sand pagodas and entertaining celebrations. In the Rattanakosin period (1782–1932), the rituals have been conducted in a similar pattern as those during the Ayutthaya period.

✈ Detailed Schedule

April 11th, 2024

This is some kind of kick-off of the festival. The main focus was the awarding of some highly skilled students. The sequence was enriched by some guitar music, an aerobic performance, some thai dance as well as a speech delivered by the president of the Amphoe (นาย พลกฤต พวงวลัยสิน) who had the chairmanship of this event. Water splashing level : moderate.

The contestants
some awesome guitar music

traditional thai dance
The chairman addresses the audience

April 12th, 2024

This was the some kind of warm-up in the Suan King Pet Park. It consisted mainly of very loud music from different bands, lasting till midnight. Audience was moderate and the sprinkler system in 'testmode'. We left early, as the bass made the chest resonate.
Water splashing level : moderate.

the band turns on full blast
whilst the sprinkler system is under test

April 13th, 2024

This day started by doing good deeds. This consisted of giving food and other useful things to monks. In a second round, scented water was sprinkled of the hands of the monks. In return they replied with blessings. This took place early in the morning, 07:59 to be precise. And as always, when doing good deeds, it will come back to you. On this special day, the Prime Minister of Thailand (พี่ นิด) happened to be in Hua Hin and we were granted permission to sprinkle water over his hands. This part started in the afternoon, around 13:59 at Suan Phon King Phet Park (สวนสาธารณะโผนกิ่งเพชร) and was accompanied by very loud music until midnight and of course heavy waterfights. Water splashing level : very high.

Good deeds in the morning
sprinkling water over the monks hands

topped by a traditional thai dance
foam-gun operated by the Lord Mayor

street-fights courtesy of Shannon O’Donnell
the prime minister and I

April 14th, 2024

This day traditionally is reserved for the family (วัน ครอบครัว). Therefore it's a more peaceful approach in paying respect and have a good time with your loved ones. Having lunch in a nice restaurant is the order of the day. Water splashing level : almost zero.


April 15th, 2024

This day was almost business as usual. The only difference is, that a lot of shops and companies including banks and public services are closed. Water splashing level : zero.

✈ Nam Ob • น้ำ อบ or น้ำ อบ ไทย

The water used for bathing and splashing is regarded as sacred. Thus, it must be clean water, "Nam Ob, in Thai : น้ำอบ or น้ำอบไทย (water saturated with perfumes, either of Thai or Western origin). NEVER EVER use dirty water or ice. When used for sprinkling over the hands of monks or other honorable persons, it is enriched with flowers such as jasmine or other yellow / white flowers.

The purpose of bathing or splashing water in the Songkran Festival is to give and request for blessings through water, thus when sprinkling water over other peoples hands, this is accompanied with good wishes of any kind, like e.g. good health. From the pourring side as well as from the receiving side.

You should ask for permission before gently pouring the scented water over the persons shoulder and down his / her back and uttering words of blessing for the New Year. However, if you are close friends, you can enjoy splashing water on each other as you wish yet with appropriate manners and moral and safety cautions.

Most companies / hotels set up a statue of buddha outside their entrance, decorated with flowers. A bowl of scented water is very close, allowing you to bathe the Buddha image. However, it is more appropriate to pour the scented water on parts of the Buddha image lower than its head.

Scented water - น้ำอบ
Buddha Statue near the entrance

✈ Baeng Ob • แป้ง อบ or แป้ง ดิน สอ พอง

This is smooth chalk to be mixed with water to give a paste. Applying soft chalk powder called 'Din So Phong' in Thai : ดิน สอ พอง on ones face or body is traditionally an individual choice of dressing and, thus, a personal business. You should not offer unsolicited help with it. To touch others in the face or on the head without their permission is considered an ill manner by civilised Thais. In reality - when beeing out in the streets - this deems not to be handled by everyone in the same way. Also there is coloured chalk in use - this leaves a longer lasting impression in your face ...


ชุด เล่น สงกรานต์ ขัน แป้ง ดินสอ พอง และ น้ำอบ สำหรับ เล่น น้ำ เทศกาล สงกรานต์
a.k.a. the 'Songkran-Kit'

✈ Sand castle / Sand pagoda • เจดีย์ ทราย

The often seen sand castles / pagodas (also on loy krathong) is a form of doing good deeds (ทำบุญ) as it is an offer to Buddha. It is also a strategy of people in the past to bring together people in the community to celebrate a fun tradition as a gathering to create unity of the members of the community. Sometimes this is also turned into a competition to challenge the teams.

model 'round'
model 'crocodile'


We would like to thank Khun Wantana and Khun Num for realising an extraordinary guided tour. ขอขอบพระคุณมากครับ.

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