Monday, April 15, 2013

Songkran Festival สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์ (Thailand)

Happy New Year--again! Our friends in Thailand have had one wet weekend, celebrating Songkran, the Thai New Year ( "สวัสดีปีใหม่" )

One feature of the day is always more fun for the younger generations while the older folks take what they can, as light as they are able. Starting the New Year means starting clean and fresh, so tossing water at one another by nearly every means possible marks the three days of festival. Buckets, garden hoses, pots and pans, even water balloons and water guns of various types keep everyone fairly doused. The symbolism (of course) is washing off the filth of the previous year and starting over.

Recent years have seen a boost in tourism in Thailand as people travel to become, shall we say, “culturally immersed” in the hottest month of the year. Someone once asked, “how does one avoid getting wet during Songkran?” No satisfactory answer comes apart from “don’t throw water and babies, the elderly and people driving.”

Is it really that easy? Does a splash of water soothe the conscience? Does giving alms and food to monks actually erase shame and guilt? Who is being appeased when one visits the temples for merit? How does changing behavior erase what was done in the past?

One can’t help but ask.

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