Episode 19: Happy Thai New Year! Happy Songkran!

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Episode 19: This week we are talking about Songkran, the Thai New Year! Gain a local’s perspective on this important holiday, and learn why Songkran is a Buddhist celebration, and not just a crazy water party festival.

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by Lani

Thai children look forward to เล่นน้ำ / lên náam/play with water, and why wouldn’t they?

It’s the time of the year to play in the water. The word “Songkran” comes from  Sanskrit which means ‘astrological passage’. Songkran is traditionally the new year in Thailand because the sun is moving into the first sign of the zodiac – Aries.

But how did water enter into this holiday?

Younger Thais ทำบุญ/ tam boon not only by going to the temple or วัด /wát, but by asking for forgiveness from their elders; this is done by pouring water on the hands or gently tapping water on shoulders or over a person’s ไหว้/ wái gesture above a silver bowl.

รดน้ำดำหัว/ród náam dum hǔa

รดน้ำดำหัว/ród náam dum hǔa

In short, it is the younger generation’s way of asking for forgiveness. Any intentional or unintentional wrongdoing is forgiven when the adults take the water poured and put it back over their son or daughter or whoever is asking for the blessing.

Generally this is done on the 16th and it is called

รดน้ำดำหัว/ ród náam dum hǔa is to bless older people.


น้ำอบไทย/náam òb Thai

น้ำอบไทย/náam òb Thai

Mia also explained in the podcast that she would love to see this traditional ceremony return to her country, and encourages folks to go to the temple or วัด /wáts to see a bit of old fashioned Thailand. In fact, she is going to celebrate Songkran by going to Bangkok to pay her respects to the author of the Manii books.

She is also preparing the traditional water that needs to be used for this paying respect ceremony which is called น้ำอบไทย/náam òb Thai . And this is the water Mia will use to receive the blessings from the teachers she respects.


This festival, not unlike other Thai celebrations, will also include a big parade. There will be a parading of important Buddha images and นางสงกรานต์/naang sǒng kran/the Queen of Songkran festival around the city. Mia asks that you don’t douse these young ladies with water! They will be sitting on their village’s floats and will later have to be on stage to represent their neighborhood! So please be nice!

สรงน้ำพระ/sǒng náam prá

สรงน้ำพระ/sǒng náam prá



นางสงกรานต์/naang sǒng kran

นางสงกรานต์/naang sǒng kran








ขนทรายเข้าวัด/kǒn saai kâo wát

ขนทรายเข้าวัด/kǒn saai kâo wát

Another reason to visit your local วัด /wát is you will also see the sand ‘pagodas’ that are constructed in an effort to return the sand that was carried away throughout the year. Of course, folks do not want to carry the sand that has gotten stuck to their shoes because that is ทำบาป/tam bàap or commit bad deeds, but it cannot be helped. So these sand pagodas or sand castles are made to bring back any sand that was unintentionally carried away and to help the วัด/wát with any future construction projects.

 Highlight from Songkarn 2012

Songkarn around Chiang Mai 's moat

Songkarn around Chiang Mai ‘s moat

ปะแป้ง/pà pâeng/Pat powder

ปะแป้ง/pà pâeng/Pat powder


เมาไม่ขับ/mao mâi kàb/drink don’t drive

เมาไม่ขับ/mao mâi kàb/drunk don't drive

เมาไม่ขับ/mao mâi kàb/drunk don’t drive


สวัสดีปีใหม่/sa wàt dii pbee mài/Happy (Thai)New Year

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