How to Celebrate Songkran in Thailand and Abroad

Last updated on May 30th, 2024 at 10:03 am

The beginning of spring marks the traditional New Year for many countries throughout Southeast Asia, with Songkran being one of the most famous celebrations in the region. 

Known for its massive water-throwing festivals in Thailand, Songkran takes place in April and is observed in different ways across the country. 

But regardless of family-specific practices, Songkran is largely about family, friends, honoring the elders, peace, and welcoming prosperity into the new year. 

With so many Thai families and expats living abroad, it is now easier than ever to organize your own festive Songkran celebration. From large-scale community events to quiet home gatherings, you can enjoy this festive New Year no matter where you live. 

Before We Start: Celebrating Songkran During COVID-19

As the traditional New Year, Songkran is meant to be celebrated with friends and family. COVID-19 makes that difficult. 

In 2020, most, if not all, mass gatherings were banned and water-throwing festivities were canceled. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t have a fun Songkran.

While COVID-19 continues to be a significant health risk, it’s important to stay safe while celebrating with your loved ones. If you wish to travel to Thailand for the celebration, be sure to check out the latest CDC guidance for helpful updates on COVID-19 in Thailand and related travel information. When and How to Celebrate Songkran

Celebrated on April 13th, with extended holidays in Thailand for family gatherings, Songkran marks the traditional New Year.

Whether you plan to visit a Buddhist temple, join in the local festivities, or celebrate at home with family, there are many ways you can keep the holiday festive. 

Food is a big one. Today, most countries have international markets and regional shops. This means you can find all the necessary ingredients to make classic dishes like:

  • Mango Sticky Rice
  • Khao Chae
  • Pad Krapow Gai
  • Gaeng Keow Wan
  • Khao Soi
  • Tom Yum Goong

But it’s not just about food. After cleaning up the home, you can also donate money, volunteer, or buy small gifts for friends and family.

Further reading: How to Safely Send Money to Thailand in 4 Easy Steps

Songkran Around the World

While made world-famous by Thailand’s six-day celebration, Songkran is celebrated across Southeast Asia in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, northeast India, areas of Vietnam, and Xishuangbanna in China. 

For expats living in other countries such as the U.S., the U.K., or Australia, you can still find ways to celebrate with your loved ones. Outside the many unique Songkran celebrations, you can celebrate with local immigration communities and find grocery stores to buy the ingredients you need for the cuisine. 

Songkran in the Southeast Asia

Songkran marks the New Year across Southeast Asia.

  • In Laos, Songkran is called Pi Mai and is celebrated from the 13th to the 16th of April. In addition to cleaning the house sharing traditional meals, and decorating Buddha images with flowers or water offerings, young and old alike visit temples to pray and for entertainment.

  • In Myanmar, people celebrate Thingyan, the local version of Songkran.  During three days people pour water on each other, participate in parades, honor elders, share traditional meals, and celebrate the arrival of the new year.

  • Known as Sangken in northeast India, it is often overshadowed by a sister water-festival holiday, Holi, in the rest of the country. During this three-day festival, it’s common to exchange gifts, idols of Buddha are sprinkled with water, and there are community meals and prayers.

  • Cambodia’s Chaul Chnam Thmey derives shares its origin from Songkran, but the water element is not as popular as it is in Thailand. Over the course of three days, Cambodians dress up, light incense, pray to Buddha, give money to charity, play games, and honor their elders. 

Songkran in the United States

With over 300,000 of Thai population in the U.S., there are several outlets for finding ingredients and products from Thailand depending on where you live. 

While it may be easier in states like California and New York to find what you need for this Songkran, there are plenty of online stores that will ship directly to your door. This includes Temple of Thai, 3 Aunties Thai Market, and Import Food

If you are far from your family, you may also want to join a larger community. There are numerous Thai associations across the USA:

Songkran in the UK

In addition to Amazon, there are several places where you can buy Thai ingredients and products in the UK. Thai Food Online, Oriental Mart, and Thai Food Direct.

But there may be some local mass celebrations as well, such as those hosted by Magic of Thailand. The best way to find out about events in your area is through UK Thai Associations and local Buddhist temples:

Songkran in Australia

If you are in Australia, it’s easier than you think to get what you need for a traditional and festive Songkran. There are various local shops, but also many online stores that carry your favorite Thai products, such as Asian Grocery Store, Thai Mart Australia, and Thai 4 Me.   

If you are looking for a larger community or Thai-related events, there are several small and large Thai-Australian associations that can help you:

More on Celebrating Songkran Outside of Thailand

So, you’ve made your favorite dishes, wished a few friends Happy New Year, and taken the day off. There are still a few more things you can do to make this Songkran a festive one:

  • If you have children, buying some water toys at the local toy shop can be a great way to spend the day outside.
  • Can’t find fresh jasmine and other flowers from home? Amazon may have some plastic Songkran garlands and flowers. Add some perfume to give these flowers a pleasant aroma.
  • Send your friends and family back home e-cards
  • Surprise your loved ones with gifts by buying them online on sites like Lazada with your Thai bank account or credit card.