Ton Phaa paa, or money tree
Culture,  Relationship

Songkran Festival 2018 – a Small Village in Isaan

Songkran Festival 2018 was an amazing time. My wife, Ping Ping, and I traveled from Bangkok to her home, a small village in Isaan. So what is Songkran? Songkran is the traditional new year of Thailand, which takes place in the month of April. All Thai people eagerly look forward to this holiday. Important is returning home to spend time with family. Featured heavily is water.

Parade through the village
Parade through the village

This year, the Thai government extended the festival to 5 days, from April 12th to April 16th. The reason being that so people would have more time for travel. Driving from Bangkok to Isaan and back, it is easy to see why the holiday was extended. The roads are extremely busy. Thai people will travel home for Songkran to spend time with family. Thai Isaan people (people from northeastern Thailand) have few choices to make money back home. Many people will move to Bangkok so they can support their family. Songkran is that special time when they have the chance to return home again.

Family working in Bangkok return to Isaan at Songkran
Family return to Isaan at Songkran

This Songkran Festival was also very special for my Thai wife, Ping Ping. I was flying into Thailand, and we were getting married. We chose Songkran for our wedding due to several reasons. First, she had more time off of work. Ping had five days off for Songkran already, and then took five more days off as well. Second, Songkran Festival is the Thai New Year which is a perfect time for new beginnings. Then, due to it being Songkran, her family was already going to be together for the holiday. Although I didn’t know this at the time, but 2018 is also the Year of the Dog. Ping Ping and I were both born in 1982, another Year of the Dog. All of the stars had aligned perfectly. Read more about all of the coincidences of our wedding here – Forces of the Universe at Play on Our Wedding Day

Thai Buddhist marriage ceremony
Ping Ping and I married during Songkran Festival

Looking up the holiday online, one may think Songkran is a water festival. A large part of the festival does feature water, and this makes sense when you consider the fact that April is smoldering hot in Thailand. Children splash you with water. Standing outside their homes, these kids are ready with guns, hoses and buckets waiting to splash vehicles that pass by. You may ask them not to get you wet, but good luck! I though feeling the water on a scorching hot day was pleasant.

classmates reconnect with each other during Songkran
Old classmates also reconnect when returning home to Isaan for Songkran

Universally, cultures view water as having a cleansing element. During Songkran Festival, prayer will include pouring water on a statue of Buddha. Villages will raise funds at this time too. People create money trees, or ton phaa paa (ต้นผ้าป่า). This particular village was using the money raised during Songkran for the local school. Since Thai people are back in the village visiting family, they will also connect with old friends and classmates. Drinking alcohol is also very popular in Thailand. Not to be disrespectful, I did take one drink or two, but I just cannot understand how they drink with it being so hot outside. I did, however, accept the white paste that is rubbed on one’s face. The white paste is also a popular custom for good luck during this time.

White paste is shown on a person face which symbolizes good luck at Songkran
Notice the white paste on my face

Everyone awaited the parade through the village. Throughout the morning, people played volleyball. At the school, friends gathered and socialized. Soon, they took off from the school and begin walking through the village with music playing. As the people passed through the streets, the children were at their homes still soaking people with water. It was a very fun time, but my wife and I also had a wedding to prepare for so we ventured off from the parade at a point. That night there was also a party at the school, which included food, drink, music and dancing. I thought the celebration was amazing and very fun (minus the traffic when traveling of course). It will now always be a special time for me as well. Songkran Festival 2018 was a holiday that will leave me with a lifetime of memories.

 

Songkran Festival, a Small Village in Isaan

2 Comments

  • Eena

    This sounds like such a fun way to celebrate the new year! I really love that fact that most Asian countries have their own day of celebrating – I’ve celebrated the Chinese New Year several times due to being part-Chinese and I enjoy it. Your wife’s home town is lovely.

    ☼ cabin twenty-four

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