Water Festivals in ASEAN are the signal for the year end and the beginning of the new one. The Festivals take place every mid-April, starting from 13 to 16 April. During the festivals, participants believe that splashing water will wash off the illness and bad luck from the previous year and they will start a new fresh year. However, the water festivals in many countries today are not only religious but also provide great opportunities for participants to celebrate, gather and splash strangers to get soaking together.
Songkran Festival, Thailand
Songkran originates from Sanskrit word combined with Song and Kran means stepping into and entering, transformation, or the time of changing. It is the center of the sun into a new sign of the Zodiac which takes place from April 13 to 15 every year so it is marked as Thai New Year based on the solar calendar.
April 13 is Maha Songkran Day, the last day of the old year which is the great stepping or entering to the new upcoming year
April 14 is Wan Nao, the day of transition between the old and new year
April 15 is Wan Thaleong Sok or the New Year’s Day
Since Songkran Festival is the Thai New Year’s Day so Thai people will clean houses, make merit, pour water upon seniors or elders in the family, and also enjoy splashing water. Moreover, people will cook more traditional dishes, wear colorful clothes and host many parades, music festivals, and beauty contests as it is one of the festivals for families to reunite; people who have moved away from their original hometown will return to visit their families.
Thingyan Festival, Myanmar
Thingyan Festival takes place in mid-April, typically from April 13 to 16 every year according to the Burmese calendar in the Burmese language means the moving from one year to another. Thingyan is the name of a flower (Pterocarpus macrocarpus) which only blooms one day each year during this time.
This water festival in Myanmar is not only to get wet or splash water but, it is the time that Buddhism meant to do good deeds for others, undertake eight precepts, and fasting by having only one meal before noon.
April 13 is Thingyan Eve or A-Kyo Nei which means the start of a variety of activities in which people will observe Buddhist rites including a period of fasting, offering images of buddha, shrines and monks are made during this day
April 14 is A-Kya Nei, a day that Burmese people believe that Thagya Min or Burmese spirit makes his descent from the heavens to the earth thus, people will start water throwing or splashing.
April 15 is A-Kyat Nei, a day which Thagya Min may run on an extra day in certain years or returns to heaven. Therefore, people will stop throwing water.
April 16 is the New Year’s Day or Hnit Hsan Ta Yet Nei which is the greatest start of the Burmese month of Tagu. On this day, people commonly make New Year resolutions, visit elders, and pay obeisance by gadaw (also called shihko) with a traditional offering of water in a terracotta pot and shampoo. Young people wash the hair of the elderly often in the traditional manner with shampoo beans (Acacia rugata) and bark.
Chaul Chnam Thmey Festival, Cambodia
Chaul Chnam Thmey or Chol Chnam Thmey is a water festival to celebrate Cambodia's New Year which focuses a lot on the spiritual cleaning aspect and on doing good deeds to start the new year since the name Chaul Chnam Thmey means entering the new year. It typically hosts on April 13 to 15 which signifies the end of the harvest season before the rain starts.
April 13 is Maha Songkran or New Year’s Eve, people will start the day early in the morning by bringing flowers to pagodas, cleaning houses, and at the night, they will burn incense and candles to illuminate the houses
April 14 is Vanabot or Virak Wanabat, people are encouraged to help those who are less fortunate, the poor, and homeless as well as offer rice to monks as tributes and receive good wishes in exchange
April 15 is when the Buddhist rituals begin called Leang Saka, people will bathe in holy water and sprinkles statues of Buddha and monks with perfumed water. Moreover, the younger or children will bathe or pour their parents and grandparent for their blessings and good advice in the future
Boun Pi Mai, Laos
Boun Pi Mai, also called Laos New Year is one of the most bustling events of the year. It regularly takes place annually during mid-April from 13 to 15 April; people in the whole country stop working and enjoying great parties. Normally, Laos people will bathe for Buddha Statues in temples with scented water and splash water into each other for cleaning and soul purifying after that.
April 13 is the last day of the old year, people start cleaning houses and villages, buying Buddha flags, colored banners, and various types of offerings to build and decorate sand stupas which are built along Mae Kong river bank to keep evil spirits away.
April 14 is the no day or a day between the old and new year; people normally prepare for the festival, no work, and enjoy festive vibes and activities
April 15 is the first day of the new year and official Laos’ New Year Day. On this day, people splash water either on other people or onto the house, furniture, and animals for the best luck. After that, people will release captive animals for peace in the upcoming year.
Kantida Kongsanae, A fourth year student from International College for Sustainability Studies, Srinakharinwirot University who is currently a Content Writing Intern at C-asean.