UNESCO has officially designated ‘Songkran in Thailand, traditional Thai New Year festival’, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. This recognition highlights the cultural significance and enduring value of Songkran, adding to Thailand’s list of intangible cultural heritage alongside Khon (2018), Thai Massage (2019), and Nora (2021).
In Thailand, Songkran refers to the sun’s annual passing into the Aries constellation, the first sign of the Zodiac, which marks the traditional start of the new year. Occurring in mid-April after the rice harvest, it is a time when people reunite with their families and pay their respects to older adults, ancestors, and sacred Buddha images. Pouring water is a significant act during Songkran, symbolizing cleansing, reverence, and good fortune. Other activities include bathing important Buddha images, splashing water on family and friends, folk plays, games, music, and feasting.
The tradition is passed on through participation in the festivities. Parents transmit the tradition to their children orally through regular social and family interactions. Educational institutes, government agencies, the media, and Thai astrologers also play an important role in preserving, promoting, and transmitting the astrological knowledge and wisdom related to Songkran.
Songkran promotes community cooperation, unity, and forgiveness. It is viewed as a time to symbolically wash away misfortunes, pray for prosperity for the coming year, reunite with family members, and honour ancestors and older adults. Furthermore, by emphasising the importance of older adults and family, Songkran helps to combat loneliness and social isolation.