Thailand’s Songkran

Songkran was celebrated throughout Thailand this week. It is the time set aside to celebrate the Thai New Year and commonly features the themes of water, spring and renewal. A friend of mine who lives in Thailand shared photos of her daughter, toting a pink, backpack-styled canteen with a connecting pump and sprayer. She is four-years-old and celebrating her first public Songkran.

Mom would do this with us. Although the most she could get from a Western audience was enough patience to dip a flowered forsythia branch in water and flick the drips on us while she said a good luck prayer for the New Year. (Except the time one of her friends came to the house and poured a cup of water on me.)

Photo of a brochre on Bangkok and a cup of Thai iced tea.
The Mizzou event featured samples of Thai iced tea.

National Public Radio labeled Songkran as a three-day water fight.1 However, the holiday has a deeper meaning for Thais. It’s also considered National Family Day, marked by reunions and large meals.2 The symbolism behind the water is to wash off the previous years’ bad luck and start anew.

The word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit saṃkrānti, meaning “astrological passage” or a time of change. The holiday is so new that it has spread to neighboring countries and is included as part of the national patriotic festivities there, although under different names.

On April 14, 2016, the Mizzou Multi-Cultural Hour dedicated that day’s presentation to introducing students to Songkran. Thai Mizzou students served Thai sweet tea and showed visiting students how to write their names in Thai. This was in contrast to previous years, in which a Grand Songkran festival was held on campus. But Thai student organizers told me not to count out a Songkran celebration yet and keep my calendar open on April 29.

Photo of fried scallops
Fried scallops from a local Thai restaurant.

Boo. I was hoping to write about one of their dishes this week. In lieu, I had my own celebration at a local Thai restaurant. (Hello fried scallops!) And below is a recipe for Thai Sweet Tea.

Thai Sweet Tea

Ingredients

  • Loose leaf Thai tea (such as this should be available at an Asian grocery story, but if you can’t find it, sub strong black tea, Ceylon or Assam tea)
  • Water

For every 32 oz of watered tea made:

  • 4 tsp sugar
  • ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk, chilled
  • ¼ cup half-and-half, coconut milk or whole milk, chilled

Instructions

  1. Brew the tea by boiling water and pouring through a tea sieve, such as this one
  2. In a separate container, mix the sugar and sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Divide the tea among glasses filled will ice (ice will melt as you pour).
  4. Divide the sweetened condensed milk among the glasses. Pour on top.
  5. Divide the half-and-half/coconut milk/whole milk among the glasses and float on top.
  6. Enjoy!

 

References

  1. http://www.npr.org/2016/04/14/474265724/thailands-songkran-water-festival-tempered-by-drought
  2. http://www.bangkok.com/information-festivals/songkran.htm#
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