In Thailand, Buddhists have this massive water festival every year called Songkran. What makes this festival so significant is that Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year. It’s officially held on April 13th, but here in Albuquerque they had a huge festival on April 23rd. Albuquerque is actually a pretty awesome city for exploring different religions with several Buddhists centers here in Albuquerque. Fun fact, Buddhist temples in Thailand are called Wats.
Thai Buddhists, like many Christians, believe that water symbolizes a spiritual cleansing. A sort of washing away of the past and moving on with the new. This goes a step further from Christian baptism because it includes the belief that the water actually brings luck and good fortune for the new year.
How Songkran began was the people in Thailand would take water that had been used to clean the buddha statues and pouring it over the heads of others in a symbolic gesture of becoming new with the new year. In Thailand today there is an absolutely gigantic water fight that takes place during Songkran, where literally everyone gets soaked. They even use elephants. Here in Albuquerque they didn’t have a water fight but they did have water for everyone to pour over the Buddha statues with.
One other super cool tradition that I found out about Songkran is the construction of dirt wats. People from all over, typically northern Thailand, bring sand to their local Wat which is then used to construct sand Wats. These are super cool because the sand represents the dirt that buddhists carried on their feet since last Songkran. After these are constructed these brightly colored ceremonial flags are then placed in them. The ones in Albuquerque were white and lavender,
On a side note, one of the awesome things about exploring religions is the people in them. It hasn’t mattered which religion it is, the people that I’ve met have been extremely friendly and their hospitality is overwhelming. The first time that I went to the mosque I was met with warm embraces and peace-be-with-you’s. Then when I went to the Wat in Albuquerque I met an awesome priest who I think I’m friends with now. It’s difficult to tell because I spoke about as much Thai as he spoke English.
One last awesome thing is that Buddhists don’t say goodbye because of the finality it expresses. So…
See you later,
Bryce M. Ridley