Saturday, April 12, 2008

วันสงกรานต์

Friday was the start of a week-long Thai holiday called Songkran. It's a water festival in which everyone basically gets very wet...and for some...very drunk.

From what I understand of the history, it comes at the end of the dry (and very hot) season, and the pouring out of the water is actually symbolic of trust that the gods will send plenty of rain in the next season (the rainy - monsoon) season. The other part of it is that it is actually the new years, and so it involves things like showing respect to the elders, resolution making, etc.

It starts off formal with a small amount of water being poured over the hands of the elders in return for a blessing. The King has his formal ceremony. Everything is nice and stately and sedate.

However, give it about a day, and the entire country goes CRAZY! Thai's love to party, and this is the biggest party of the year. If you go out in the streets, bring a change of clothes in a air-tight bag because you will get drenched. People drive around in trucks with huge water containers and throw water on anybody and everybody. And if you're out, don't plead work or anything else, you will get water dumped on you. Motercyclists (of which that is the primary form of transportation for many) have the worst time of it.

The other thing is the powder. I'm not sure where it originated from...maybe from the marks the monks put on people who come for their blessing? I'm not sure...but white powder gets smeared on everybody. At times the air is thick with the residue of powder. But not to worry because someone is sure to quickly dump a bucket of water around and clean the air out!

Of course some people are cruel and put huge cubes of ice in their water so when they throw it on you it is FREEZING COLD!

As a little kid, we would grab our yard hose or little buckets of water and throw water on any unsuspecting individual passing by and, if no one else was about, take turns chasing each other around the yard with the hose! (If you're having trouble picturing what this looks like, imagine an entire country involved in a massive water fight...that's the general idea!).

As a teen, I would generally go out in a truck with my Thai friends on the first and maybe second day of the holiday. Come back soaked to the bone, but having had the satisfaction of dumping gallons of water on people :) Of course being a white kid out in all this, everybody seemed to take immense pleasure in smearing me head to foot with powder and then dumping as much water on me as possible. But it was all fun!

However, after the second or third day, you pretty much don't want to go out (and if you do go out, go out in a car and LOCK THE DOORS - people will open your car door and dump water in on you) because the partying has been non-stop for quite awhile now and people tend to do crazier and crazier things when they're drunk. Or just high from water throwing in the case of some!

But despite the origins and despite the craziness, I can't help but have fond and wistful memories of this time of year. Friends, silliness, culture, and home...

Perhaps I'll dump a bucket of water on Chris; that might make me feel better!

So, HAPPY SONGKRAN!

3 comments:

Amber said...

Alright, fine. If you need it that badly, I will come to your house tonight as you sleep, use my key to let myself in and drench you in your sleep. Would that help?

Amber said...

I tried to play songkran with Hillery tonight and she wouldn't let me.

Ouph said...

Mean Hillery. She needs to get into the spirit of all of this!