As part of the new year celebrations, the act of pouring water symbolizes blessings and good wishes.
More than just rowdy water fights, the iconic water festivals are often a big part of the New Year celebrations that take place in South-east Asian countries in the month of April. Traditionally, water is sprinkled on one another as a show of respect and as a cleansing ritual to welcome a brand new year.
Thingyan Water Festival, Myanmar
Held from 13 to 16 April annually, the Thingyan Water Festival is among the most important holidays in Myanmar. Celebrated as part of the Burmese New Year, the event is marked by water-throwing or dousing one another with water pipes and hoses. To mark the start of festivities, a cannon (Thingyan a-hmyauk) is fired and people come out with pots of water and sprigs of thabyay, then pour the water onto the ground with a prayer. The sprinkling of water is intended to metaphorically “wash away” one’s sins from the previous year.
Bunpimay (Boun Pi Mai) Water Festival, Laos
The Bunpimay (Boun Pi Mai) Water Festival is a jubilant affair held during the three-day Lunar New Year festivities from 13 to 15 April. Celebrated mostly in Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, the festival sees water being used to cleanse homes and buddha images, in addition to soaking friends and passers-by. All this is done in the belief that water will help to wash away bad luck and diseases in exchange for fortune and health. Other activities include worshipping at the temples, as well as dancing to traditional Lao music.
Choul Chnam Thmey Water Festival, Cambodia
Chol Chnam Thmey literally stands for “Enter New Year” in the Khmer language and is a celebration of Cambodia’s traditional Lunar New Year. Held on either the 13 or 14 of April each year, the festival spans three days of activities starting with burning incense sticks at the shrines and paying homage for religious teachings. On the second day, people participate in charity activities for the less fortunate, and on the third day, devotees bathe the Buddha images before heading to the streets for water splashing.
Songkran Water Festival, Thailand
Perhaps it’s coincidence that Thailand’s Songkran Water Festival falls during the hottest time of the year, but this festival has come to be associated with the summer heatwave. Celebrated as part of Thailand’s new year from 13 to 15 April, the event marks the start of spring with activities like offering food to the Buddhist monks, showing respect by pouring water over their elders’ palms, and participating in water fights. In addition, traditional parades are held, in which a “Miss Songkran” is crowned from among contestants dressed in traditional Thai dress.