Songkran (สงกรานต์) is the most important feast for Thai people. Often called 'water' festival, Songkran is the ancient New Year's Day happening mid April. Now the official New Year's Day happens the 1st January.
For Songkran festival, Thai people clean everything, i.e the house, the previous year bad actions, the Buddha statues, one's own spirit. But nowadays Songkran festival is better known for its splashing water madness. Traditionally the ceremony was to pour water into the palms hands in order that bad actions, bad thoughts flow away with the water. It was a way to purify. Children show their respect to elders by performing this water ceremony. Also scented water is poured over the shoulder and slowly down the back of the person. While pouring the water in this manner, people say good wishes and words of blessing for the coming New Year.
The first day of Songkran period is an important day to make good deeds. People visit temples to listen to Dharma. Also they give alms to monks.
Food is offered to monks. The food left is shared by the nuns and the people offering alms.
On the second day of the New Year festival, Thai people traditionaly carry sand into temples compounds in order to build a small pagoda ("PHRA CHEDI SAI" - พระเจดีย์ทราย). These sand piles represent personal pagodas built as part of the merit-making ritual. People leaving a temple during the previous year have taken with them temple dust. Taking sand into the temple during Songkran festival atones for what they have taken out.
People also donate flags (ตุกปักทราย - "TUK PAK SAY") to sand pagoda. It is believed to bring luck and considered as a revered offering to the temple.
Thai Buddhist temples traditionally move what are believed to be their holiest statues to open-air pavilions during the Thai New Year to allow worshippers to sprinkle them with water. It sometimes happens that ancient Buddha statues were stolen from shrines erected outside temples to accommodate Thai worshippers. Buddhist artefacts are frequently smuggled from rural Thailand and neighbouring Cambodia to Bangkok markets, where they are often sold to foreign collectors.
Clean Buddha statues
During Thai New Year parade Buddha statues are settled on cars. People sprinkle holy water on the statue to purify it.
Clean Buddha statues
Songkran festival lasts officially three days. But it often starts one day before if the weather is very hot. All administrations and banks are closed. Most people living in Bangkok go back up-country to visit their relatives and to participate to Songkran feast. During Songkran festival there is no traffic jams in Bangkok. Many houses nationwide are put under police watch during Songkran.