Thailand is the perfect place to celebrate the new year because it has not one, but three different ways to celebrate it!
Did you know?
Thousands and thousands of paper lanterns are thrown into the sky at the Thapae gate at the end of the year.
In Thailand it is customary to start the new year with a ritual of purification of body and soul. Experience an authentic Thai start to the year and book the treatment that best suits you.
First, a bit of context. Since 1940, the official day on which the year ends is December 31. Thailand, in order to adapt to the customs that the rest of the world was already using, established the Gregorian calendar as the official one, so that the country could fit into the international system that had dominated Western countries for years. At first, their welcome was not too hospitable, centuries and centuries of tradition weighed —and weigh— like an anvil on the traditional minds of the inhabitants. But, little by little, this westernization has been adapting and making a small place for itself in the hearts of the Thai people.
Today, New Year’s Eve is one of the most fun days to enjoy Thai nightlife. In addition, at these parties you can meet people of all kinds and conditions and from all corners of the planet who have also come out to welcome the year with pure fun.
Traditions from beyond our borders
Songkran proves that Thailand truly is the land of smiles.
However, we cannot ignore the proximity that Thailand has with the Asian giant, both religiously and traditionally. The flow of migrations through Asia has meant that a large part of the Thai population has Chinese blood in their genes and therefore they also celebrate the beginning of the year according to their traditions. Family meals, large dragons, peacocks and mythological figures make their presence felt in the streets of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other crowded cities, as if they were the center of Shanghai or Beijing.
The process is similar in most countries with the same Chinese root. The massive parties in the heart of the cities, full of twinkling lights and the noise of people walking through the streets, precede the family dinner equivalent to Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve here in Spain. In addition, respect for elders is a fundamental part of these traditions and bows are made to them as a ritual of respect. But why is it always celebrated on different dates? and more importantly, what is the basis of this tradition?
The Chinese New Year is a celebration that is based on the lunar calendar. They are usually counted 45 days after the winter solstice, at the nearest full moon. It usually falls in the first days of February, as for example this year, which is celebrated exactly on the first day of the second month. This holiday has been celebrated since 2697 BC, which means that this year will be the number 4719! In addition, the year is welcomed by venerating the corresponding animal in the Chinese zodiac, which instead of working for months as in astrology, works for whole years. Last year was the year of the ox, which symbolizes strength, diligence and honesty, and this year will be the year of the tiger, which will bring courage and chase away the evils of the world. Will he be right?
But if there is any tradition that is 100% Thai, it is the Thai New Year water ritual. Known by locals as Songkran, it is a festival that takes place from April 13 to 15 every year, and is one of the biggest national festivals. In some regions, even these celebrations last for several weeks.
Purification rituals to start the new year well
Although the festivities don’t start until the 13th, the days before it is necessary to prepare the house to welcome, in the best way, the year. To do this, a general and thorough cleaning is carried out, leaving the houses totally neat both physically and spiritually. On the 13th, the members of the family gather in a house, where they cook the typical Thai New Year’s dishes that will be tasted during the following days in massive family meals.
After preparing the feast, all members of the family head to the nearest natural water source available to them. A beach, a river or a stream, it does not matter, right there, small pagodas begin to be erected -which are multi-level constructions typical of Southeast Asia- and they will decorate them with pennants, flowers and other types of ornaments to atone for the guilt accumulated during the year and honor your family. The multitude of people who contribute to these small buildings leave an overwhelming scene on the beaches and rivers of Thailand, each one more original and larger. An opportunity to unleash your creativity!
The next day, everyone prepares to go to the temples early in the morning to participate in the Buddhist Songkran rituals. After these ceremonies, families come together to eat some of the food prepared the day before. And that same afternoon, the “Great Water Festival” arrives and with it, the fun. Thousands of people of all kinds and conditions take to the streets with one goal: to get wet and be wet. And you will ask yourself, to be wet? Yes, you read it right. One of the most important parts of all New Year’s celebrations in the land of smiles is water. Among many things, because it symbolizes cleanliness, purity and is a fundamental point of the Buddhist religion. Thais take to the streets of the most important cities to throw water at each other in a thousand possible ways: water pistols, buckets, balloons… Although it is an ancient tradition, youth have managed to take over the party.
If you are going to celebrate this holiday in Thailand, many children and adolescents will put the sight of water pistols on you. “The Alien Hunt” is one of the most common games among the new generations. If you go with the intention of having fun, go ahead! but if you don’t want to end up completely drenched, you may prefer to move to areas a little less traveled on those days.
However, we know that many times the best way to start the year renewed is by doing something that helps you relax to get rid of the stress and contractures of the year that is left behind. And in that, we can help you. Give yourself an experience that will make you start the year in the best possible way, physically, mentally and spiritually.
Sawadee pee mai!, Happy New Year!