southeast asia rings in the new year

Thailand, Laos and Myanmar recently rang in the lunar new year from 13 – 15 April in three days of nation-wide revelry. Known as Songkran in Thailand, Thingyan in Myanmar and Choul Chnam Thmey in Cambodia, the holiday welcomes some of the largest festivals of the year and is seen as a time to spend time with family, make merit and, particularly in Thailand, plenty of water splashing. What started out as a practice of symbolic bathing with perfumed water has turned into city-wide water fights as people take a break from their busy schedules, unwind and cool down during the hottest months of the year.

 

Sri Lanka also saw its own form of the new year on 13 April. “Suba Aluth Awuruddak Wewa” (Happy New Year) was the greeting overheard at dawn on the 13th as the “Koha” (Cuckoo bird) gave islanders the much needed harbinger to get ready for the “Festival of the Sun”.

 

During the holiday, auspicious times prescribed by astrologers are highly considered and followed to precision in order to receive back the spiritual blessings of the Sun God. “Nonagathaya”, meaning inauspicious time, is allocated only for religious observances at temples and it is eminent that locals strictly do not engage in any other activity apart from these. Customs and rituals took centre stage through the holiday including anointing an herbal mixture blessed by monks to playing games and activities with the village crowd. The celebrations generally persist for about a week, ending with customary visits to family and friends with gifts and homemade sweetmeats.