'Smile Parade' by Thailand Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai in December 2021 Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Thai expats in UAE will celebrate Songkran, the three-day Thailand New Year and water festival from April 13 to 15 with festivities, get-togethers and sharing of traditional cuisines.

“This is also a special occasion when we wish one another a peaceful, successful and prosperous year,” Thailand Ambassador Waravuth Pouapinya told Gulf News.

Pouapinya explained the word ‘Songkran’ is derived from a Sanskrit word that means ‘to move or step forward’. “Therefore, the main focus is about moving forward in life and getting ready for a fresh start.”

He added: “Songkran has nowadays been considered as a national festival and as extended public holidays in Thailand. This is a time when people can return to their hometowns to have reunion with their families and friends; do merit-making, pay reverence to ancestors and the elders.”

He said: “As April is also the start of the summer season in Thailand – where average temperatures reach around 36 degrees Celsius – people will also enjoy splashing cold water to one another to have a relief from the hot weather. There are also lots of fun activities organised nationwide.”

There are around 12,000 Thai expats living and working in the UAE, with over 60 per cent of them residing in Dubai.

Thailand Ambassador to UAE, Waravuth Pouapinya
Waravuth Pouapinya, Thailand Ambassador to UAE Image Credit: Supplied

Embassy activities

The Royal Thai Embassy in Abu Dhabi is open to the Thai community to come in for morning prayers and performing of water pouring on Buddha statues. Embassy officials said their will be get-togethers in the afternoon but activities “will be peaceful and quiet” as it is also the holy month of Ramadan.

“We also take this opportunity to make merits by offering iftar packages to nearby Muslim communities to share love, caring, and unity. Iftar food packs will distributed every Friday throughout Ramadan,” according to an Embassy official.

Sukanya Suthiphan, president of Thai Women’s Circle Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News her family’s Songkran activities would include morning prayers. “My children would pour water on my hands as well as on their father’s hands to pay respect; and they will be blessed in return with a good life,” she said.

Buaban Tucker, owner of Desert Lotus, a Thai restaurant in Al Raha, said she will clean her house to be ready for the new beginning. “There will be prayers and family reunions. All these activities will bring good times and blessings to the family,” she added.

What is Songkran?

Songkran festival is the most important event of the year for Thais. Pornsiri Supanya, consul at the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Dubai, said: “Songkran is the most important and liveliest festival. It has been celebrated in Thailand for centuries and is full of tradition and culture. It is officially observed as a three-day national holiday from April 13 to 15, although the celebrations can go longer – for up to a week in some places.”

She added: “The word Songkran means ‘to move’ or ‘movement’ in Thai. Songkran Festival is determined according to the movement of the sun from one zodiac position (Pisces) to a new one (Aries). Songkran is also known as the Water Festival, which is celebrated to mark the New Year in Thailand. While other Southeast Asian countries celebrate a similar traditional new year holiday/water festival, Thailand’s Songkran is the most well-known around the world.”

Pornsiri Supanya (front) with Thai officials
Pornsiri Supanya (front) with Thai officials Image Credit: Supplied

In Thailand, Songkran is celebrated not only by water splashing (as popularly known among foreigners at Songkran attractions on Khao San Road, Silom Road, and almost every road of all the 77 provinces of Thailand), but also by spending time with family and paying respect to the elders.

Supanya said: “Personally, Songkran is my favourite festival especially when I was in my school years. I still remember the days when my relatives, friends and I went on the back of a pick-up truck splashing water to people who were also enjoying splashing water on their respective trucks. We had such a fun time and I feel so blessed we get to celebrate such a unique festival”.

Three-day festival

April 13 is the first day of Songkran in Thailand and also marks ‘National Elderly Day’, when the scented water (traditionally scented with a perfume called Nam Ob) is poured. This pouring ceremony or 'Rod Nam Dam Hua' is held for younger people to seek blessings from their elders.

Youth seeking elders' blessings during the 'Rod Nam Dam Hua' ceremony Image Credit: Supplied

April 14 marks ‘National Family Day’ highlighting the importance of the family. During Songkran holidays, Thai people will go back home to spend time with their loved ones and family.

April 15 is when the new year begins with early morning merit-making at the temples, where Thais offer preserved and cooked foods, fresh fruits, robes and other offerings to the monks. People make sand stupas – known as Chedi Sai – in the grounds of their local temple as a kind of personal pagoda and a fun family way to make a spiritual offering. Another main activity is Song Nam Phra, a ritual that involves the pouring of scented water onto temple’s sacred Buddha images and ask for blessings as a new year starts.