Thailand celebrates new year with Songkran Festival

    9:56 AM, Apr 16, 2013   |    comments
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    THAILAND (CBS) -- Thai people are celebrating their traditional Songkran Festival by religious ceremony and public party of splashing water on Saturday.

    The Songkran Festival, or the Water Festival, is New Year for Thai people. And the five-day holiday lasts until Wednesday.

    A ceremony that people offer food to Buddhist monks, known as "making merit," is part of the Songkran ceremonies, which can be dated back hundreds of years.

    According to traditional teachings in Thailand, as monks should not be distracted by worldly things, they should not cook nor handle money.

    The first day of Songkran is also National Elderly Day. The younger generation should trickle scented water into elders' palms to show their love and respect.

    But now, more and more people choose to celebrate the festival with a huge water fight in streets across the country, which is a public party far from the religious traditions.

    "In the last several years, I'm afraid that the fun side of the equation has gained prominence, and that's perhaps unfortunate. It's fun yes splashing water, but I think in the last few years it has been overdone," said Sukhumbhand Paribatra, governor of Bangkok, capital of Thailand.

    Heavy drinking is also part of the celebration, which has led to many accidents on the roads -- averaging around 300 deaths and thousands of injuries.

    "Thai people will often pour water first at the ceremony and then play with water in the street. It's about love and respect and it shouldn't become violent or rough," said Prathammadilok, deputy abbot of Suthad Royal Temple.

    Water plays an important part in the celebration. For Thais, it symbolizes cleansing of the spirit and the end of the long dry season.

    Most people accept there is room for both of the traditional acts of blessing and the water battles.

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