The festival of Songkran (Thai name：เทศกาลสงกรานต์), is the Thai New Year and the most important festival in Thailand. With celebrations lasting up to a week, Thai New Year marks the end of the dry season with religious ceremonies and water fights, with the latter having become synonymous with the occasion.
What is Songkran?
The word ‘Songkran’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘samkranti’ which means change or transformation, and it is on this note that the Thai people bring in the New Year. It is customary to wish each other ‘sawasdee pi mai’ or ‘Happy New Year’. The word Songkran means ‘to move’ in Thai, and the festival is determined according to the movement of the sun from one zodiac position to another.
As a symbol of renewal in Buddhism, water is splashed on statues of Buddha for good luck, and younger generations bathe the hands of the elderly to receive their blessing in return. People also gather in the streets to splash water in what has become hugely popular among Thais and visitors to Thailand who join in this unique spectacle.
When is Songkran 2023?
Songkran 2023 falls between April 13th – April 15th 2023. The first day of the new year is called Song Nam Phra (pouring water on monks) day. Processions are held all across Thailand and it is this day that the biggest water fights happen.
April 14th: This day is also known as Wan Nao and it celebrates the old Thai New Year’s Eve. Everyone is encouraged to spend time with loved ones on this day and enjoy a family meal.
April 15th: On this day, the New Year begins. This day is also known as Wan Payawan (‘Bathing Buddha’) Day. Parties, water fights and concerts are commonplace throughout Thailand on the final official day of Songkran 2023.
Where to Celebrate Songkran 2023 in Chiang Mai?
Activities are held throughout Thailand, whether traditional ceremonies, to more modern and raucous water fights. Chiang Mai’s old town is the epicenter for the water fights with the road around the moat packed with revelers from all over the world. Thapae gate is the focal point and will draw the biggest crowds but it’s fun to walk around the moat to soak in the atmosphere.
Huge crowds will use anything they can to splash passers by, whether it be a water gun, pipes, or buckets. Plenty of vendors will be around selling guns so don’t worry about missing out! The sale of alcohol has been restricted in recent years but plenty of bars will be open. Songkran was essentially banned during covid so it is likely to be especially busy in 2023, however expect certain restrictions to resume to ensure the safety of participants such as limitations on alcohol.
Head to Wat Phra Singh if you want to witness more traditional merit making, people will go to donate food and clothes to monks and listen to the preaching. The beautiful backdrop of Wat Pra Singh makes this a special sight to behold.
Tips for Enjoying Songkran in Chiang Mai
The streets can get extremely crowded so expect heavy traffic
Befriending some locals in a pick up truck loaded with water is a great way to see more and meet new people
Celebrations start early but peak around lunchtime and die down in the evenings but there’s a chance of getting a soaking after the sun has gone down
If you don’t want to get wet, we recommend staying indoors or staying outside the city, people will ignore your pleas to remain dry!
Do not throw water on monks
Buy a waterproof case for your essentials as you’ll be soaking head to toe for most of the day
Wish the locals a ‘Sawadee bee mai’ or Happy New Year in Thai!