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A Lanna Local’s Songkran Guide | Chiang Mai

Let us guide you through the annual Songkran Festival, from the local customs and traditions to the hidden treasures that make Songkran such a special event in Chiang Mai.


Songkran is a major festival celebrated annually in Thailand, as well as Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos with regional differences, marking the traditional Thai New Year. The festival is typically held from 13 April to 16 April each year. Songkran is deeply rooted in Thai culture and serves as a special time for families to come together and honor their ancestors. The festival in Chiang Mai includes parades, temple ceremonies, and traditional rituals.


A history of Songkran

The history of Songkran goes back to ancient Hindu traditions, which were then embraced and adapted by Buddhist culture in Thailand. Brahmins started the tradition with the belief that the sun passes into Aries, with New Year’s Day on 15 April called Wan Payawan. Folks believed that water had the power to wash away their past misfortunes and transgressions so sprinkling others with water was a ritual to purify their souls and start anew. The word Songkran originates from Sanskrit to mean moving forward.


How do locals celebrate Songkran in Chiang Mai?

The festival in Chiang Mai is known locally as Pra Pe Nee Pee Mai Muaeng and is a traditional occasion for Lanna people of Northern Thailand. Local people spend time at their family homes, make merit and pay respects to their ancestors and elders, both at home and local temples. People take part in merit-making activities such as offering alms to Buddhist monks. This is done by preparing food and other offerings, and then presenting them to the monks as a way of making merit and ensuring good luck for the coming year. People will carry buckets of sand to the temple to build a sand chedi and place colourful Tung flags in the sand, a symbol of the earth that was carried away on the feet of the locals over the past year. During the festival, it is traditional to pour scented water over the hands of elders and others as a sign of respect. This is seen as a way of purifying the body and the soul, and it is also believed to bring good luck for the coming year. The Thai New Year offers the perfect opportunity for people to travel to their hometowns to celebrate with friends and families.

Where to experience religious and cultural events

Chiang Mail features a host of activities including religious, cultural and recreational events. One of the highlights is the Wai Sa Jum Sa Ri Nam Tip Pee Mai Muang procession, where the Buddha Sihing of Wat Phra Singh is carried through the streets from the Three Kings Monument to Phra Singha Temple on 12 April from 4pm until 5pm. People offer water to the Buddha as is passes, as symbol of respect and cleansing, as they hope for prosperity and luck for the coming year. Wat Phra Singh features many religious traditions over the festival period as well as other temples around the city including Wat Lok Mollee, Wat Upakut and Wat Chiang Man. Thapae Gate hosts many activities including building sand pagodas, an almsgiving ceremony, folk dancing and cultural performances.


Revel in the unique Songkran traditions of Chiang Mai – a time of spirituality, reverence and renewal.


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