This week marks the coming of the New Year for many Southeast Asian countries who welcome in the New Year traditionally in April instead of January.
The celebrations take place around the 13-16th of April and sometimes last up to a week.
Each country has their own traditions and there are many spiritual and religious aspects, but water plays a significant part in the celebrations throughout.
It is traditional to pour water on another’s shoulder to bring them these blessings. However, in a number of cities it has turned days of city-wide water fights!
Two years ago this week I spent New Year in Laos. From the moment of our arrival in the capital Vientiane we began to be dosed in water.
Within minutes we were welcomed on the back of a huge vehicle by strangers keen to share their celebrations with us, we were handed water pistols, buckets and became part of their team and soon friends.
As we meandered through the city they taught us New Year greetings in Lao and asked us about our lives; with water coming in all directions from those young and old.
Some stayed on vehicles and others found prime positions on the side of the road to strategically drench passers-by. The vastness of the water fight is impossible to describe and all in all it transpired to be one of the best days of my life.
Even days later when reaching Luang Prabang we were welcomed by the locals as we walked by to a street birthday party, where they proceeded to poor pond water over us and share their food and hospitality until the early hours.
It’s not all about water though!
In Thailand New Year is named Songkran and in cities such as Chiang Mai it is celebrated for as long as six days or longer! In the north of Thailand many take handfuls of sand to their nearest monastery in order to make amends for the dirt they have carried away on their feet for the rest of the year.
Laos New Year is called Songkan or Pbeemai. The first day marks the last day of the old year, many take the opportunity to clean their houses and villages to prepare for the New Year. The second day is named the ‘day of no day’ as it falls neither in the New Year or the old year. And the last day of the festival marks the welcoming of the New Year.
In Cambodian New Year is Chaul Chnam Thmey and is a time to prepare special dishes to enjoy such as kralan which is a cake made from steamed rice mixed with beans or peas, grated coconut and coconut milk which is then stuffed inside a bamboo stick before being slowly roasted.
So remember if you ever visit, when someone throws water on you it is a sign of respect and a blessing and you should throw water on them too!
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