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New Time and Songkran

Text by Jens from Kohsamui.org

Is the reference point the birth of Lord Buddha's or is it the birth of Jesus Christ? Lord Buddha was born 543 years before Jesus Christ. Many Thai people are still using the B. E. (Buddhist era) calendar but Thailand officially changed it 1940 (A.D.) and moved the New Year's Day from "Songkran" in April to January 1st.

What is Songkran? It is originally a Sanskrit word which means "moving" or "changing". It is the Thai new year celebrated in the middle of April all over Thailand. The normal dates for celebration is from April 13th until April 15th, but at some places the celebration continues another day or two and it can be going on for a whole week. A town that take this celebration serious is Chiang Mai in the North.

Why is Songkran celebrated in April? The dates of Songkran is not just calculated from a Buddhist perspective, it's also from astrology and the Thai lunar calendar. Thai people consider Songkran to be one of the most important events of the year.

Why is water on Songkran so important? Water is often poured over the hands or shoulders of an elder person while he or her get blessings and good wishes for the New Year. Also Buddha images gets a bath. This is an old tradition. Today you should stay indoors if you are "allergic to water". Otherwise it is common to get really wet from water guns or even water thrown from trucks. Many farangs (Thai for "westerners") and Thai teenagers participate in this friendly "water war". Maybe some of the original traditions with Songkran has been overshadowed by this new activities.

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