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April 10, 2018 > Songkran Festival welcomes Thai New Year

Songkran Festival welcomes Thai New Year

By Zoya Hajee

Annually in mid-April, the national holiday of Songkran is celebrated in Thailand to mark the new year. Families focus on moving forward; they prepare for the new year by cleaning their homes in hopes of casting away bad luck from the previous year and bringing in good fortune. They also visit Buddhist temples with offerings and listen to the monks as they preach. Water plays a huge role in the holiday, as it serves as a means of expression for the values that Songkran embraces: goodwill, love, compassion, and thankfulness.

Songkran has its origin deeply rooted in a myth that revolves around Nang Songkran, or the Seven Ladies of Songkran. The story is about a four-faced god known as Kabile Phrom who met an intelligent young prince named Thammabal Kumara. The prince claimed to understand the language of birds, and Kabila Phrom decided to test this by giving him three riddles, betting his head against the princes. The answers were unintentionally revealed to Thammabal, causing Kabila Phrom to cut off his own head. However, this head had special powers that could destroy Earth, so the gods seven daughters isolated his head in a cave and presented it with offerings. Each year, the daughters would carry his head in procession around Mount Meru, and this event is known as Songkran.

On April 14 and 15, Wat Buddhanusorn will celebrate this historic festival through traditional activities and ceremonies. This temple was founded in 1983 and has served the Bay Area Theravada Buddhist community ever since. It strives to teach and promote Thai art, language, and culture to interested members of the community.

On Saturday, April 14, community members will begin Songkran celebrations by presenting offerings in the Main Buddha Hall, followed by monks walking ceremonial alms in the central courtyard. Students of the Wat Buddhanusorn Sunday School will then perform Thai classical dance and music. Fish will be released at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area at 1:30 p.m., and those interested in this activity must meet at the boat dock. Participants can sponsor the release of a bucket full of trout into the lake. During Songkran, animal release ceremonies such as this are considered merit making ceremonies, in which doing good deeds earns one karma points, as Tim Tararug, Director of Educational Programming, said.

Sunday morning will consist of a bird release ceremony, in which homing pigeons will be released from cages and returned to their lofts symbolic of releasing these animals into freedom. In the afternoon, the community can take part in the traditional watering of Buddha images, monks, and elders as a gesture of humility. This act symbolizes renewal and cleansing to prepare oneself for the new year. As the youth wash the hands of their elders and ask for blessings, they are reminded to pray for their ancestors and recall those who have done good for them. Attendees should prepare to get wet during the watering; the spirit of holiday merriment is shared among all participants through lively water play and drenchings.

The public will surely enjoy these two days full of cultural activities, and many joyous memories will be made with friends and family. Be sure to wish each other well with the Thai New Year greeting, Sawsadee Pee Mai!

Participants are requested to carpool to the event as parking spaces are limited. Only designated parking areas are allowed; do not park on neighborhood streets.

Saturday, Apr 14:
10:00 a.m.: Sanghdana offering, chanting & sermon, alms giving ceremony
11:00 a.m.: Meal offering to monks, public lunch gathering, Thai music & dance performances
1:30 p.m.: Fish Release ceremony at Quarry Lakes

Sunday, Apr 15:
10:00 a.m.: Sanghadana offering, chanting & sermon, alms giving ceremony
11:00 a.m.: Meal offering to monks, public lunch gathering, traditional Bird Release ceremony, Thai music & dance performances
2:00 p.m.: Traditional Watering of Buddha image, monks & elders

Songkran Festival
Saturday & Sunday, Apr 15 & 16
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Wat Buddhanusorn
36054 Niles Blvd, Fremont
(510) 790-2294

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