In Thailand, November to April is known as a dry season. Being the hottest month during this period, April has a special meaning to Thai people as they observe the Chakri Memorial Day and celebrate the Songkran New Year Festival.
1. Chakri Memorial Day
“The Celebration of the Chakri Dynasty”
Thailand celebrates the Chakri Memorial Day on the 6th of April. “Chakri” is the name of the current house of Thailand. The head of this royal family became the King of Thailand and controlled all over the country. The Chakri Memorial Day commemorates the foundation of the Chakri Dynasty by Rama I who became the King of Siam on 6 April 1782 and ruled over the nation for almost 28 years. His supremacy led to the reconstruction and reinforcement of the whole Kingdom, during when King Rama I proclaimed Bangkok to be the new capital of the Kingdom of Siam which was later on called Thailand.
During the celebration of the Chakri Memorial Day, the Thai people worship not only to the Chakri Dynasty, but also to the previous Kings of Thailand. They usually light incense and lay wreaths of flowers at the prominent statue of King Rama I in remembrance of the flourished days of Thailand. The royal family also performs the ceremony to show respect to their ancestors. The government, banks, and some schools are closed during this public holiday.
2. Songkran New Year Festival
“The Thai New Year’s Day”
“Songkran” is the Thai New Year’s festival. The Thai New Year’s Day is on 13th April every year, but the holiday period includes 14th and 15th April. The word “Songkran” literally means “astrological passage” from Sanskrit, meaning transformation or change. The first day of Songkran takes place when the sun moves from Pisces to Aries, which marks the New Year’s Day according to the Brahmin solar calendar.
Most Southeast Asian countries designate 13th to 15th April as the New Year Day. Despite the hot weather, people await for this period to take a rest or hang out. To celebrate Songkran, there are many activities throughout Thailand including cleaning houses and public places such as temples, schools, and offices to welcome the New Year with cleanliness and fresh start, releasing bird or fish in cages, merit making, as well as enjoying folk performances and traditional games.
During the festival of Songkran, water is used as the means of expression. For example, Thai people pour water onto elderly family members of the family or society to show respect and gratefulness, and to ask for their blessing. They, in turn, throw back water or the one mixed with perfume to give blessing. It is also common to sprinkle water onto Buddha images and monks to receive blessings for the New Year. Most Thai people return to their hometown to celebrate this Festival with their family or friends.
By KIM MIN JUNG ASEAN Correspondent from Thailand