Songkran Festival (Part 1)

What is Songkran Festival? 

‘Songkran’ derives from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, “astrological passage”. It is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year’s Day from 13 to 15 April.

The date of the festival was originally set by astrological calculation, but it is now fixed. Songkran falls in the hottest time of the year in Thailand, at the end of the dry/winter season. Until 1888 the Thai New Year was the beginning of the year in Thailand. January 1st. is now the beginning of the year. But the traditional Thai New Year has been a national holiday since then.

It is now observed nationwide, even in the far south. However, the most famous Songkran celebrations are still in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

Some Thais go to their grandparents’ house to pay respect to them; it is a family holiday, kind of like Christmas; it is also a long weekend, many businesses close for those days, and people go home to see their families.

Religious Part of this festival: 

Thais go to the temples to make merit by bringing food to the monks, making donations, etc. and receive blessings.  These activities take place primordially in the morning. In the afternoon they have a chanting ceremony.

What did people do at Wat Doi Saket?

  • Poured water on Buddha statues;  the Buddha statues were prearranged under a tent for easier access.
  • Brought decorations (or bought them at the temple, usually more expensive but it is seen as a donation) for good luck. Water is not poured or sprinkled to monks.
  • Paid respect to the Boddhi tree’s ghost by placing big long decorated sticks.
  • Donated money to the Wat.
  • Wrote their names and their family members’ names on a long piece of orange/gold colored fabric which will be later wrapped around the Pagoda for good luck and blessings.
  • Participated in a chanting ceremony where Buddhist Monks chant to lay people. This ceremony is believed to help them live a happier and longer life.
  • Organized a special ceremony to pay respect to the elderly, including monks.
  • Scheduled a meeting with the Abbot to bring gifts and/or money. In return he chants the traditional blessing and gives a buddha medal pendant as a thank you token.
When I first got to the Wat I saw the donations as a bit odd, but by living in the monastery grounds I have seen how it is also incredible, because not only are monks always available for lay people, but they are also willing to help those who want to meditate, become monks, work at the temple, or ask for help. Lay people support monks and monks are there for lay people also.
Here are some images of this great weekend.
P.S. I will post more photos later, I am having difficulties with the gallery settings.

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