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The annual Songkran Festival (comes from Sanskrit and means astrological passage) marks the Thai New Year and is the most crazy holiday of national celebration. Thais will spend these days with family, going to temples, parties and water fights (this last - the ultimate water war - is a common sight in Thailand). The date of the Songkran Festival used to be decided based on the lunar calendar, but now the date is fixed at April 13 to 16 this year. As one of Thailand's biggest celebrations, the public holiday has become Thailand's busiest holiday, also attracting thousands of travelers. The opening ceremony of the Thai Water Festival takes place on the morning of April 13th, and though it officially lasts only three days, many people extend the holiday to one week, especially in Pattaya.
This Buddhist celebration includes various rich traditional activities. The first morning begins with a merit-making, such as releasing birds and fish (even larger animals like buffalo and cows). After that, many Thais visit local temples and give food to Buddhist monks. Another traditional practice is to pour water on Buddhist statues as well as on people (in modern times many young people have adapted this to use squirt guns; see below), symbolizing the purification and cleansing of iniquity and bad luck. It's also a day of family reunion, when people who move away usually return to the homes of their loved ones and elders (reverence for ancestors is an important part of Songkran tradition as in Thai culture generally).