Next week, Thailand marks the start of the Buddhist holiday known as “Songkran” which has become one of the most popular festivals of the year. The religious significance relates to purification, a fresh start, and cleansing. Consistent with these themes, many Thais mark the occasion by thoroughly cleaning their homes, gently washing Buddha statues with scented water, and by showing respect to their elders by pouring water over their hands.
Although the origins of Songkran are religious, splashing complete strangers with water has become the main attraction of the festival. Soaking or sprinkling people with water signifies the washing away of bad thoughts and actions, and brings them good luck in the new year.
At the end of the processions and festivities, crowds form in the street to dance, party, and throw water in good-natured fun. To add another layer of intensity, many Thais add ice to their water or travel in teams that wear masks and carry large water cannons. But you probably won’t mind the getting wet because afternoon temperatures in April can rise above 40°C/100°F.