Today marks the first day of Songkran festivities and with evening flights to Myanmar for the Thingyan festival we have been forced to celebrate it quick and simple from the dry grounds of our Bangkok condo. While the nationwide water festival takes place around us this may sound somewhat bland and boring but it is also the norm for many less interested revelers in Thailand as the younger crowds take to the streets. This morning we celebrate from our condo foyer where a makeshift altar has been staged for residents to come and make offerings through the Song Nam Phra ritual. A golden Buddha statue placed on the altar, dressed in flowers and decorated with offerings of fruit. Next to the statue are the requisites for the Song Nam Phra ceremony including a bowl of water, a bottle of scented oil, flower petals and four cups on a decorative tray.
Song Nam Phra is one of many ceremonies which take place over the Songkran Thai New Year and it is also the most significant. Song Nam Phra literally translates as ‘Pouring Water on Monks’ and the ceremony involves water being poured over the hands or feet of a monk at the temple. When no monks are to hand (as with us) pouring water over a Buddha statue gains the same merit. The significance of Song Nam Phra is to wash away the bad actions of the past year and to make a wish for the new year asking for good fortune, health, wealth or whatever you desire. Traditionally the water has floating jasmine flowers which signifies purity but more recently oils are used to make the water smell nice (and at our altar – red rose petals). Two other common flowers used for Song Nam Phra are Daw Ruang (for success) and Dok Kem (for intelligence). As we celebrate at our condo foyer the more dedicated will travel to local temples for monks and Buddhist statues and occasionally with famous Buddha statues they are taken to the streets for locals to pour water on and make their wishes for the New Year. After Song Nam Phra ceremony the ritual would return to the elders of the family and water is also poured on their hands and feet (we have no elders).