Songkran 101 with Chef Noom

What is the Songkran Festival about?

The word ‘Songkran’ comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘transformation’, marking the Thai New Year. Many workers travel back to their hometowns to go to temple, celebrate with their families and of course, partake in the water fights. This year, Songkran runs from 12-15 April.

Why is water so significant?

During Songkran water is considered spiritually purifying, washing away bad fortune from the previous year so you can start the next year fresh. Originally, the water that was poured over Buddha statues was collected and used to bless elders by trickling it over their shoulders. From this rather tame beginning, Songkran has evolved over the years into a country-wide, all-out water fight. It is a really fun time of year and has become a big tourist attraction.

Who gets involved in the water fights?

Everyone. If you do not want to get wet, you should stay indoors. The only people who are immune are monks or nuns, cops and the elderly. Everyone else is fair game and nobody will care that you have an expensive camera around your neck or a non-waterproof phone in your pocket. Getting angry is considered very bad form, so the best thing to do is leave your valuables at home, grab a Supersoaker and join the fun. You will probably encounter children with buckets of clay who will want to ‘bless’ you by smearing clay on each cheek, which is play-mimicking how monks bless things.

Any tips on how to water fight?

Wear shoes with some grip; everything gets very slippery! The absolute last thing you want to have on your feet are flip flops. Do not wear white; while Songkran has become a party, it is still a religious festival, not a wet t-shirt contest. It may be tempting to strip off into swimsuits, but unless you are at the beach or poolside, keeping on your (wet) clothes is a must.

Any special foods associated with the festival?

There is not really a Songkran meal equivalent to a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Instead, people go home to their families and eat the festive, celebratory foods of their hometowns. However, if you would like to try a little taste of Songkran, Soul Food Thai will be serving Ka Nom Tom, a very traditional Thai coconut dessert that is enjoyed during many Thai ceremonies and is commonly eaten around festivals like Songkran. It will be available from this Saturday until 24 April. BYO water gun!

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Sawatdee pi mai! To learn more about the holidays celebrated around Asia, check out our post on the Chung Yeung Festival and learn about the origins of the Dragon Boat Festival.

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