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Discover the Importance of Water in Southeast Asia’s New Year

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Happy New Year from Exotissimo!  The New Year is called Songkran in Thailand, Pee Mai Lao in Laos, Chol Chnam Thmey in Cambodia and Thingyan in Myanmar.  It is also known as the Water Festival to foreigners.  Locals and visitors of each country celebrate by pouring and splashing water at each other in a scene of fun and joy unique to this part of the world.  But why water?  What is the history behind it?

The festival originated from the Brahmins in Northern India centuries ago.  They believed that the sun entered Aries from Taurus and finished its orbit around the earth on April 13th.  It is also the start of spring and signified the start of a new life, thus becoming their New Year.  The Tai people from China adopted this tradition and spread it to the various places they emigrated to, long before Southeast Asia’s recorded history.  The tradition was readily inherited into each country’s societies partly because they were free from farm work during this time.  This gave them time to perform their annual rites of showing respect to their ancestors.

Water is used because it signified cleansing and renewal (this could have stemmed from the Brahmins’ association of spring).  You may see people throwing large amounts of water at each other today, but historically this was not the case.  People would delicately sprinkle or gently pour scented water over the shoulders and backs of family members or respected elders as a sign of reverence and for blessing.  People would also make pilgrimages to local temples to bathe and cleanse Buddha images in a similar way believing this will bring good luck and prosperity for the future.

The water that was used to bathe Buddha images was then thrown to others as a way to show respect to others.  People would capture this ‘blessed’ water and use it to give good fortune to elders and family members by gently poring it over them.  Through time, younger generations would throw water at each other as a way to comfort themselves from the April heat (one of the hottest months in the region).  This has further evolved into water fights and splashing water over people riding in vehicles.

The Water Festival is very important to the people in the area.  Many will go back to their home provinces in order to be with their family members.  It is also a joyous occasion and visitors are more than welcome to join in the occasion.  You can visit www.exotravel.com and see our suggested tours in these countries.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.  We are more than happy to answer your questions.

Have a wet and Happy New Year from Exotissimo!

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