What do Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar all have in common? Not only do these countries represent parts of Southeast Asia, but all four also share the same new year! The new year celebration, many calling it “Songkran,” is derived from the Sanskrit word, saṅkrānti, which translates into “the passage of time.” Cambodians refer to the new year as “Moha Songkran,” whereas Thais call it “Songkran.” Laotians, on the other hand, call it “Pii Maii” and the Burmese call it “Thingyan.” All sound different but all four new years share very close similarities.
Whether you call it “Moha Songkran,” “Songkran,” “Pii Maii,” or “Thingyan,” this multi-day New Year celebration falls during mid-April and signals the end of the harvest season, where farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor right before the monsoon season. The beginning of the new year celebration also marks the start of various religious activities where friends and family gather to bring alms and offerings to their monasteries. Lighting candles and burning incense is also common and is done to pay homage and as a gesture of thanks to their ancestors and to the Buddha.
Water is a big theme during this celebration and symbolizes washing away “sins” of the previous year. Scented water, usually mixed with flowers, and cologne or perfume are often used. It is the tradition for people to wash their homes, Buddha statues, and even each other! Washing those that you admire is believed to be a deed that will bring longevity, prosperity in life, and good luck. It is common to shower elders, family, and friends with water during this holiday.
Delicious food such as grilled fish, lemongrass beef, sour soups, various green and red curries, fried noodles, and rice dishes can be found. To many, this aspect is one of the highlights of the celebration. Tasty food, colorful jelly desserts, heavy amounts of coconut milk, rice-flour treats, and even sweet fruits can also be found. Other festivities include traditional dance and songs and even fun games such as “chicken and the crow,” where one imitates being a mother hen and protects her chicks from the crow, all of which can be played by both children and adults.
In 2015, we started a wonderful annual tradition as a collective Southeast Asian community. We hosted the first New Year celebration that incorporates all these neighboring communities and cultures. Whether you have been attending New Year in the Park each year or if it’s your first time, we invite you to join the celebration! New Year in the Park 2019 will take place on Saturday, April 27th from 9:30 am - 6:00 pm at Glenhaven Park in Portland. We hope to see you there!
We welcome community organizers! If you are interested in joining the planning committee, our next meeting will be held on February 6th at Mekong Bistro, from 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM.