You’ve never really celebrated a New Year until you’ve experienced a Buddhist New Year; it’s completely unique. Held during one of Thailand’s hottest months, April sees locals and tourists galore, spraying each other with hoses, pouring buckets of water overhead, visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks. And of all the Buddhist festivals, the most memorable New Year celebration is Songkran.
Celebrating Thailand’s Happiest Buddhist Festival
The water-bombing at Songkran isn’t just about providing welcome relief from the heat, it has deeper symbolic meaning, too. Songkran, or the Thailand New Year, represents purification and starting afresh, so what better way to symbolise that than getting soaked in water. Initially, Songkran was about getting sprinkled with a little bit of water, but over the years, water bombs, hoses and buckets have been introduced to the festivities. If you do happen to visit during Songkran, remember not to wet monks, the elderly or pregnant women!
During Thai New Year, many Thais spend a lot of time doing a big ‘spring clean’ of their houses as part of the spiritual cleansing process. Buddha statues get an annual spring clean, too. Formal processions are common during Songkran with Buddhas carried down the street.
Places to celebrate Songkran in Thailand
- Chiang Mai – Great for families and plenty of cultural celebrations. Patong Beach, Phuket – Party all day and night here.
- Khao San Road, Bangkok – Great for backpackers, water during the day and a party scene at night.
- Ayutthaya – Great if you’re not keen on getting wet, here you can offer food to monks, visit the temples, release animals back into the wild and bathe Buddha statues.
- Hat Yai – Famous for its floating markets and great Songkran performances.
Thailand loves a good celebration and their New Year festivals are some of the best times to visit. And there aren’t many countries that celebrate three New Years! Not only is Songkran celebrated in Thailand, so is Chinese New Year and the traditional December 31st New Year.
Chinese New Year in Thailand
Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar and usually takes place around January or February each year. Chinese New Year isn’t a public holiday in Thailand, but members of the Chinese community love to engage in celebrations. On the eve of Chinese New Year, it’s all about praying to the gods, paying respects to ancestors past and eating delicious food. Red envelopes called ‘ang-pao’ containing pocket money are given out to children. On Chinese New Year’s Day, it’s pretty much about doing absolutely nothing, resting and enjoying the day. In Thailand, Bangkok is home to a large Chinese population, and so this is typically where you’ll find some great festivities like parades, dances, Chinese wares, traditional food and fireworks.
January New Year in Thailand
Team sunny blue skies with New Year celebrations and you’re in for an awesome new year in Thailand. Although December is winter in Thailand, the only time you’ll need to throw on a light sweater is at night time. Expect to be getting around in a singlet, shorts and thongs during the day. Daytime in December sees sunny skies, low humidity and dry weather - perfection. Although Thailand celebrates Thailand New Year in April, they have actually been celebrating a January New Year for the past 70 years. The Thai’s celebrate the January New Year much like Australians, taking a few days off work, exchanging gifts, enjoying shows and fireworks. Big cities like Bangkok are often the most popular for extravaganza type displays, and most hotels include a gala New Year’s Eve dinner in your package whether you attend or not. In Thailand though, the January New Year is also about spirituality. Thais perform good deeds by visiting their local temple, giving alms to monks, listening to sermons by the monks, releasing animals into the wild and even attending meditation retreats. Thailand really knows how to throw a party. Not only are they specialists at Buddhist Festivals like Songkran, you’ll enjoy Chinese New Year and January New Year celebrations, too! Deciding which celebration to experience all depends on the type of party person you are!
Entranced by the idea of Buddhist festivals? Browse our collection of buddhas here.