The date of the festival was earlier worked out as per the astrological calendar, however now a fixed date is used, from April 13 -15. April 13 is known as the Maha Songkran Day or the last day of the old year whereas April 14 is Wan Nao. The New year begins on April 15 and is known as Wan Thaloeng Sok. Till 1888, the Thai New year marked the beginning of the year, however, presently January 1 is the time when the new year begins. Nonetheless, the Thai New Year, still is a national holiday in the country.
The festival is the time to remind the people that they need to recognise and respect what their parents have done for them throughout their life. The festival also encourages the people to pay a visit to old neighbours and strengthen relationships with them.
During the festival, people visit Buddhist temples and worship the great Buddha. They also offer food to monks and cleanse the image of the Buddha with water and gentle Thai perfume. The latter is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year.
In a number of cities of Thailand, like Chiang Mai, the statues of the Buddha from all the temples of the city are paraded through the roads. This enables a large number of people to wash the image of the Buddha as it passes by. People also carry handful of sand to their temple and collect them in a pile which is then adorned with colourful prayer flags. Later, people also take up some community service work, This, according to the teachings of the Buddhism, is the best way to gain happiness.
The festival of Songkran is also known as the Water festival. The reason for this is that people were required to pour a small amount of lustral water on other people's hand so as to convey their respect for the latter. This tradition has now metamorphed into more of a fun activity wherein people, specially the youth, throw water and wet at each other and even on the vehicles. Throwing of water also brings about a much needed relief from the scorching heat of the April month. This month is the hottest one in the country of Thailand.
Since, the festival teaches to respect one's parents, people also carry small gifts for their parents when they go visiting them on this festival.
Songkan in Laos
Thingyan in Myanmar