Patch Picks: Get Immersed in Songkran, the Thai New Year

The 'water festival' celebrates renewed relations, elders, monks and washing away bad luck.

Get ready for Thailand’s New Year celebration—Songkran!

Check out these Patch Picks to find out where to go to experience the rich culture in music, dance, religious rituals and delectable dishes.

Songkran—the largest and most important national holiday celebration in Thailand—will also honor the King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 84th birthday this year.

During Songkran, the primarily Buddhist country will showcase a multitude of rich cultural events in 13 major locations, displaying each area’s unique festivities. The three-day occasion from April 13-15 includes traditional activities of cleaning of temples, rituals in which Buddha statues and images are bathed with scented water to show respect, temple grounds are decorated, gratitude is shown to elders and respected individuals by pouring scented water over their hands.

The event creates, strengthens and unifies the community, promotes concern for the environment and encourages groups to get together and clean houses, temples and other public places. This earns them merits as offerings to the monks, meditating, listening to sermons and monk-bathing.

Water-splashing street parties are commonly seen, where everyone, young, old and in-between can take part in the ridding of bad luck. It’s also known as the “water festival,” as water is believed to wash away anything unlucky, and it represents the cleansing and purification process. In the street parties, many activities are observed to include, beauty pageants, performances, food vendors and many more.

Locally, Songkran celebrations are held at Thai Buddhist Temples, and they will follow similar programs. Be warned that if water festival is indicated, you could wind up getting drenched!

According to the venerable Ajahn Prasert, a resident monk at Wat Buddhanusorn in Fremont, the festivities start in the morning with food offerings to the monks and proceed with activities that will include religious rituals, music and dancing performances, water festivals and food choices galore.

Find a local Songkran event this weekend and next:

  • : San Francisco on Sunday, April 10
    From 10:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. Event starts with monks walking around and chanting. Then there’s offering food to the monks, an assortment of Thai food, concluding with the water festival. Located at 310 Poplar Ave., San Bruno. Telephone: 650-615-9528
  • Wat Mongkolratanaram: Berkeley on Sunday, April 10. From 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Activities will include the offering of food to the monks inside the temple, food and the water festival. Located at 1911 Russell St., Berkeley. Telephone: 510-849-3419.
  • Wat Buddhanusorn: Fremont on Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17. From 10 a.m. to approximately 2 p.m. Event on Saturday will include Buddha ceremony, blessing and dedication to the departed, releasing the birds to symbolize giving life, offerings to the monks, releasing fish in the lake, food stands and water fest for the kids. Located at 36054 Niles Blvd., Fremont. Telephone: 510-790-2294 or 510-790-2296. 

Although our local Thai restaurants will not offer dining specials in light of Songkran, they will be open as usual serving from their regular menus. If you ask them about the new year, they will certainly direct you to a Buddhist temple for the festivities. For a primer of some mouth-watering Thai food, check out these places:

  •  at 590 Showers Dr. Telephone: 650-559-0366.
  •  at 311 Moffett Blvd. Telephone: 650-940-9990.
  •  at 702 Villa St. Telephone: 650-968-2038.
  •  at 194 Castro St. Telephone: 650-960-7077.
  •  at 174 Castro St. Telephone: 650-988-9323.

If you decide to check out any of the Thai Buddhist Temple's festivities, getting cleansed and purified may turn out to be refreshing with a sunny forecast for the coming weekend.

Happy Songkran!!


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