This national holiday celebrates democracy in Thailand and the first constitution in 1932 (and it's my birthday! Family & neighbours help harvest with sickle in hand; the crop is then dried; threshed; dried again then stored in a rice barn for later milling before use.
Lao, Mon & Karen communities have their own celebrations of the rice harvest; some start, under a full moon, with ritual threshing by Bhuddist monks.
People return to their family homes & attend ceremonies in the temples; they donate & offer robes to the monks; they listen to chanting & sermons; in the evening they perform 'wian tian' that is circumambulate the temple clockwise carrying lit candles, incense and lotus flowers, a very nice spectacle to watch or join; alcohol is prohibited & government offices & banks are closed.
Monastics stay in their temples for intense meditation practice and Buddhist study; a time for spiritual renewal.
This New Year water festival marks the start of the Buddhist calendar year; Thai, Mon, Karen, Burmese & Lao communities and visitors celebrate together in many locations in & around Sangkhla.
Many locals and visitors spend a day or two in Three Pagodas Pass where, on the Myanmar side of the border, the party is bigger, more exuberant and lasts longer; in the past few years, just for Songkran, non-Thai passport holders have been allowed to cross for the day and join in the fun.
This ceremony is said to originate from the Mon Hanthawaddy Kingdom (1369-1539) when Mon pilgrims drowned on their way back from Sri Lanka.
Mon & Karen have their own ordination styles, but generally they both chant with monks & dine together; they pay respect to elders and proceed with others in a procession with families, relatives, & friends, wearing royal costumes & carrying basic necessities of the one ordaining.Visakha Bucha festival commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha at the end of the dry season.The ceremony includes merit making; simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks laid at the feet of teachers & culminates in pouring holy water on the sacred Bodhi tree, an expression of devotion and respect as the Bodhi tree represents the place of enlightenment of Gautama Buddha.The festival includes alms-giving, gift exchanges, paying polite respect to elders, lighting of candles, pagoda visits; all night outdoor entertainment, shows, games and stalls. Simple Krathong floats are made from banana tree trunks & leaves, decorated with flowers and a lit candle, loaded with wishes & worries then floated on the lake or a river in the evening under a full moon; then you watch it float away with it's cargo or wishes & worries; maybe some rice, charcoal, money, flour, incense & candles too for the spirits; elaborate designs are built by groups for fun & competitions. After the rains retreat when the monks stay in one place, they now move around; a procession of lay people carrying new robes and offerings to the temples to express gratitude to Buddhist monks & to support temple upkeep.Highlights of the festival: Buddha statues, monks and lay people are linked by white cotton thread; chanting; making merit (thambun); robe offering ceremony; money trees; festival of lights; sharing of meals; traditional music & dance, food & other stalls.
On arrival at the temple they circumambulate the temple three times; then shave heads & bathe with holy water those ordaining; there is celebratory merit-making, folk dance performances & more.