On April 19th DEPDC/GMS, Mae Sai celebrated Songkran (Thai New Year). The morning consisted of preparing for the celebrations, which included presenting senior staff members at DEPDC/GMS with small gifts of appreciation wishing them a healthy and happy New Year; followed by symbolically cleansing every one of their previous year’s bad luck with a blessing of scented water.
The atmosphere at DEPDC/GMS on the morning of April 19th was exciting and bustling, as last minute touches were put in place for Songkran celebrations. Food baskets, prepared as a token of appreciation for senior staff members, were close to overflowing, flowers were arranged and steps were swept before the arrival of the senior staff, who included Lung Sam, Lung Chan, Pa Kiew, Pa Pun, P’Sam’s mother and Sompop Jantraka, the founder of DEPDC/GMS.
The celebrations began with offerings of flowers and incense at the Spirit House. Spirit Houses are a common sight in Thailand. It is believed that spirits exist in all places in and reside in the Spirit Houses. Offerings are made to the spirits in order to appease them and to ask for their protection. Sompop then said a few words of thanksgiving and asked that the New Year would be filled with happiness and good health for everyone. He also spoke about how traditional events and customs, such as Songkran celebrations, bring families and friends together and help to create and maintain a sense of community with one another.
The baskets of food and flowers were then given to the five senior staff members of DEPDC/GMS, and to Sompop, in keeping with the Songkran tradition of visiting and paying respects to elders, family members, friends, neighbours and monks. Everyone then lined up and poured scented water over each staff member’s hands and wished them a happy and prosperous new year. The staff then returned a blessing and tied a sai-sin (a piece of string which represents the blessing) around each person’s wrist. In typical Songkran fashion water was then splashed in all directions in order for people to wish each other luck in the New Year. Everyone then sat down to a delicious vegetarian lunch, which included rice, mushrooms, peppers, mangos and much more. With everyone’s hunger satisfied it was then time to sit in the sun and dry off after an enjoyable afternoon of celebration.