Date(s) - 13/04/2024 - 16/04/2024
Lao New Year, called Songkran (Lao: ສົງກຣານ, [sǒŋkràːn]) or Pii Mai (Lao: ປີໃໝ່, [pìːmāi]), is celebrated every year from April 13/14 to April 15/16.
The official festival lasts for three days from April 14 to April 16 (although celebrations can last more than a week in towns like Luang Prabang). The first day is the last day of the old year. Houses and villages are properly cleaned on the first day. Perfume, water and flowers are also prepared for the Lao New Year. The second day of the festival is the “day of no day”, a day that falls in neither the old year or the new year. The last day of the festival marks the start of the new year.
The Songkran festival (Thai: สงกรานต์, [sǒŋ.krāːn]) the Thai New Year’s festival. The Thai New Year’s Day is 13 April every year, but the holiday period includes 14–15 April as well.
The Songkran celebration is rich with symbolic traditions. Mornings begins with merit-making. Visiting local temples and offering food to the Buddhist monks is commonly practiced. On this specific occasion, performing water pouring on Buddha statues is considered an iconic ritual for this holiday. It represents purification and the washing away one’s sins and bad luck. As a festival of unity, people who have moved away usually return home to their loved ones and elders. As a way to show respect, younger people often practice water pouring over the palms of elders’ hands. Paying reverence to ancestors is also an important part of Songkran tradition.
The holiday is known for its water festival which is mostly celebrated by young people. Major streets are closed for traffic, and are used as arenas for water fights. Celebrants, young and old, participate in this tradition by splashing water on each other. Traditional parades are held and in some venues “Miss Songkran” is crowned, where contestants are clothed in traditional Thai dress.
The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti (Devanāgarī: संक्रांति), literally “astrological passage”, meaning transformation or change.