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The Water frenzy of New Year Festivals

  • By Easia Admin
  • April, 06, 2018

Water splashing is the distinguishing feature of New Year celebrations in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.

1. Pii Mai in Laos

Pii Mai, the New Year of Laos, is the most exciting as well as the most widely celebrated event in the country. Nowhere hosts more ancient traditions and colorful pageantry than Luang Prabang. Although the celebration officially lasts three days from April 14th to April 16th, the party always goes on for at least a week, especially in towns.

On Pii Mai, houses and villages are properly cleaned. Perfume, water and flowers are prepared. To begin people remove Buddha images from the temples to clean them with specially prepared water. But then it is time for the water frenzy to begin as people take to the streets to douse one another with water, which is believed to be an act of cleansing and purification in anticipation of the end to the dry season. Traditionally, you wish someone “Sok Dii Pimai” (meaning Happy New Year) before pouring water over their head, to symbolize the washing away of sins committed in the past year. These days, water is also fired from water pistols and huge water guns or thrown from buckets and pans, creating unavoidable water-fights on the streets.

Pii Mai also occurs alongside other traditions such as giving monks mounds made of sand, setting animals free, beauty pageants, music and dancing.


2. Chaul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia

Chaul Chnam Thmey (literally means “Enter New Year”) and usually takes place in the middle of April and lasts three for days: “Maha Songkran”, “Virak Wanabat” and “Virak Loeurng Sak”. On Mah Songkran, people dress up, light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines. They also wash their face with holy water in the morning, their chests at noon and their feet in the evening for good luck. On Virak Wanabat, families contribute charity to the less fortunate and attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the monastery. On the last day of the festival, Virak Loeurng Sak, Buddhists cleanse the Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water. Bathing the Buddha images symbolizes the need of water for all kinds of plants and living things. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them best wishes and good advice for the future.

New Year often happens along with several other Khmer customs. In temples, people erect a sand hillock on temple grounds. Like the people of Laos, Cambodians pour and throw water, too. The younger generation is normally responsible for pouring water or liquid plaster (a mixture of water with some chalk powder) on elder relatives. Traditional games are also played everywhere to make the festive days more memorable.


3. Thingyan in Myanmar

Thingyan is the Burmese New Year Water Festival in mid-April (April 13th – 16th). It is a Buddhist Festival that is considered to be the most important public holiday throughout Burma and is part of the summer holidays at the end of the school year.

Like the “Pii Mai” and the “Chaul Chnam Thmey”, Thingyan would not be the same without water. People splash or douse water with pipes on passersby or people driving past on jeeps. Children drench their friends and relatives using water pistols. The whole country soon becomes a giant aquatic party. People gather together and visit pagodas, offer and pay homage to the monks, play traditional games and celebrate with their ever joyful spirit.

After the water fights, the citizens welcome the New Year on April 17th by cleaning the floors of the pagoda and monasteries, washing old and aged peoples’ hair, helping them to cut their nails. They also offer free food and drinks for everyone who visits the pagodas or make other donations.


4. Songkran in Thailand

Songkran, which takes place from April 13th to April 15th is the most famous festival in Thailand marking the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year.  The name Songkran originates from a Sanskrit word meaning “passing” or “approaching.”

Throwing water, of course, is a huge part of the annual celebrations. People roam around throwing buckets of water, using water pistols and giant water guns and just generally soaking anyone passing by as the Thai believe this is a way to wash away all the bad luck from the previous year.

Besides giving thanks to Buddha, appreciation of family is one essential aspect of Songkran, with many Thai people returning to their hometown, conducting reunions, visiting monasteries and giving alms to the monks. Songkran is the chance for young individuals to show their respect to their elders by pouring perfumed water on their hands and offering up prayers for them.

Without a doubt, the New Year in these four countries, along with the frenzy of water throwing activities, not only is fun but also teaches people about the meaning of faith and respect.

Please contact us at for more itineraries discovering this special time of the year in Southeast Asia.

* Photo credit by Wikipedia

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