• Traditional Celebrations
  • Travel
  • Volunteering

Chiang Mai Thai New Year: A Celebration of Culture and Tradition

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: April 20, 2023

Chiang Mai Thai New Year, also known as Songkran, is one of the most celebrated festivals in Thailand. It is a time when families and friends come together to honour their cultural heritage, pay respect to their ancestors, and welcome the new year with joy and optimism. This festival is celebrated throughout Thailand, but the city of Chiang Mai is known for hosting the most elaborate and exciting festivities. In this article, we will explore the history, traditions, and celebrations of Chiang Mai Thai New Year.

History of Chiang Mai Thai New Year

The origins of Chiang Mai Thai New Year can be traced back to ancient times, when the people of Thailand relied on agriculture for their livelihoods. Songkran marks the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season, which is crucial for the growth of crops. The festival was also a time to pay respect to the elderly and seek blessings from Buddhist monks for a bountiful harvest.

Over time, Songkran evolved into a celebration of renewal and rebirth, symbolising the start of a new cycle of life. It is believed that by cleansing themselves of bad luck and negativity, people can welcome in good luck, happiness, and prosperity for the new year.

Preparations for Chiang Mai Thai New Year

The preparations for Chiang Mai Thai New Year start weeks before the festival. Houses are cleaned, new clothes are bought, and traditional Thai dishes are prepared. During the festival, the streets of Chiang Mai are adorned with colourful decorations, and traditional songs and dances are performed. People also make offerings to the Buddha, seeking blessings for a prosperous and happy year ahead.

Celebrations during Chiang Mai Thai New Year

Chiang Mai Thai New Year is famous for its water fights, which take place throughout the city. People of all ages participate in the water fights, using water guns, hoses, buckets, and even elephant trunks to splash water on each other. The water fights are not just a way to cool off in the scorching heat, but also a way to wash away the bad luck of the past year.

In addition to the water fights, there are also traditional Thai games and competitions, such as tug-of-war, sack races, and beauty pageants. Many of these activities are held at the temples, which are the centre of the celebrations during Chiang Mai Thai New Year.

Chiang Mai Thai New Year Traditions and Customs

Visiting temples and participating in religious rituals is an important part of Chiang Mai Thai New Year. People make offerings of food and flowers to the Buddha, and pour scented water on Buddha images as a sign of respect. They also make merit by offering alms to the Buddhist monks, who bless them and pray for their well-being.

Another important tradition during Chiang Mai Thai New Year is the pouring of scented water on the hands of elders as a sign of respect and gratitude. This is a way of seeking their blessings for a happy and prosperous year ahead.

Tips for Celebrating Chiang Mai Thai New Year

If you are planning to celebrate Chiang Mai Thai New Year, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be prepared to get wet! Water fights are a big part of the festival, so make sure to bring a change of clothes and protect your belongings from getting wet.

It is also important to respect the cultural and religious traditions of the festival. Dress modestly, remove your shoes before entering temples, and be mindful of your behaviour in public spaces.

Finally, be aware of the dos and don’ts during the festival. Don’t throw water in people’s faces, don’t use ice-cold water, and don’t throw water on monks, pregnant women, or the elderly. Do have fun, be respectful, and enjoy the festivities!

Experiencing Chiang Mai Thai New Year through Volunteering with GVI

If you’re looking for a more immersive way to experience Chiang Mai Thai New Year, consider volunteering with GVI. GVI offers a range of volunteer programs in Chiang Mai that allow you to participate in the festival while making a positive impact in the local community. Volunteering with GVI during Chiang Mai Thai New Year is a great way to connect with the local community and experience the festival from a unique perspective. You will have the opportunity to participate in traditional ceremonies and celebrations, learn about Thai culture and customs, and make new friends from around the world. 

Chiang Mai Thai New Year is a festival that embodies the rich culture and traditions of Thailand. It is a time for families and friends to come together, celebrate the past, and look forward to the future with hope and optimism. The water fights, traditional games, and religious rituals make for a unique and unforgettable experience, and the welcoming and friendly nature of the Thai people only adds to the charm of the festival.

If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai during Thai New Year, don’t miss the opportunity to participate in this amazing celebration of culture and tradition. You will come away with memories that will last a lifetime, and a deeper appreciation for the beauty and richness of Thai culture.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
what’s up next?
Nepal’s Traditional Food: A Culinary Journey through the Himalayas

Discover the rich and diverse flavours of Nepal's traditional cuisine, from momos to dal bhat, and learn how to experience it while volunteering in Pokhara with GVI.

You might also like these articles

Celebrating Cambodian New Year: A Guide
Read the article
Christmas in Nepal: A Unique and Festive Experience
Read the article
Immerse Yourself in Culture: Experience the Vibrant Festivals of Nepal
Read the article
The Markets of Chiang Mai: A Guide to Shopping in Thailand’s Northern Capital
Read the article
Volunteer and Adventure
Carnaval in Tenerife: The Most Colourful Festival in the Canary Islands
Read the article
Volunteer and Adventure
Exploring the Spectacular Caves of Tenerife
Read the article
Volunteer and Adventure
Exploring the Best Chiang Mai Temples
Read the article
When is the lantern festival in Chiang Mai?
Read the article
GVI’s Guide to Adventure on the Limpopo River
Read the article