Chances are that you won’t escape a soaking if you happen to be in Thailand during the Songkran festival. From April 13 to 15, thousands of water-enthusiasts will once again roam the streets with water guns, water balloons, or even buckets in search of potential victims. Celebrating Thai New Year, the punters are not fussy about their prey — men, women, and children are all fair game. Since Songkran takes place during the hottest period of the year in Thailand, for many the festival brings a welcome relief from the heat.
While the water fights take place all across Thailand, there is also a more serious side to the festival. Songkran begins with the National Elderly Day when young people pour fragrant water into the palms of elders in the hope of receiving a blessing. Another annual ritual is the pouring of water over Buddha statues both at temples and homes. The pouring of water is symbolic of the cleansing of the body, mind, and spirit, and is also supposed to wash away misfortune.
Versions of the water festival are also celebrated in other Southeast Asian countries, including Laos (where its called Pee Mai Lao), Cambodia (Chaul Chnam Thmey), and Myanmar (Thingyan).