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The new year doesn't always start on Jan. 1

By: Josh Lew on Dec. 28, 2016, 12:07 p.m.
An elephant sprays water on a crowd during Songkran

Photo: JJ Harrison/Wikimedia Commons

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Thai New Year (April)

Songkran, the Thai New Year, begins on April 13 each year. Traditionally, this is a time of merit-making, when devout Thais go to Buddhist temples with offerings and food for the resident monks. Another important tradition involves cleaning Buddha statues by pouring water over them.

This cleansing practice has evolved into a water festival of sorts. Streets around the country are closed off and people splash each other with water. During the three days of Songkran, the water throwing goes well beyond these designated areas. Visitors to Thailand during mid-April are virtually guaranteed to get wet at some point. A similar holiday is celebrated as the new year in Cambodia (Choul Chnam Thmey), though with less of a focus on water fights.