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‘Songkran in Thailand’ declared an UNESCO ‘intangible cultural heritage’

The traditional Thai New Year, the biggest and most important of Thailand’s annual festivals, has been celebrated for centuries and is full of tradition and culture.

Bangkok, 8 December 2023 – “Songkran in Thailand, Traditional Thai New Year Festival” has been included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The announcement was made on Wednesday, 6 December during the 18th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, being held from 4-9 December 2023, in Kasane, Republic of Botswana.

The prestigious recognition follows the inclusion of “Khon, masked dance drama in Thailand” in 2018, “Nuat Thai, traditional Thai massage” in 2019, and “Nora, dance drama in Southern Thailand” in 2021. Thailand joined the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO in September 2016.

The Department of Cultural Promotion, Ministry of Culture submitted the nomination of “Songkran in Thailand, Traditional Thai New Year Festival” for the UNESCO listing.

“In Thailand, Songkran refers to the sun’s annual passing into the Aries constellation, the first sign of the Zodiac, which marks the traditional start of the new year,” UNESCO said in a statement. “Occurring in mid-April after the rice harvest, it is a time when people reunite with their families and pay their respects to older adults, ancestors, and sacred Buddha images. Pouring water is a significant act during Songkran symbolising cleansing, reverence, and good fortune.”

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has been promoting Songkran over the years.

Ms. Thapanee Kiatphaibool, TAT Governor, said “The Songkran Festival, which takes place nationwide in Thailand, is an event where boisterous fun and ancient traditions go hand-in-hand. With the inclusion in the UNESCO listing, Songkran 2024 promises to amaze and delight locals and tourists with even grandeur celebrations.”

Songkran in Thailand is officially observed as a three-day national holiday from 13-15 April, although celebrations can go on for longer – up to a week in some places.

For tourists, the Songkran Festival offers a chance to enjoy a huge celebration where water parties break out in the streets of Thailand’s towns and villages. For the locals, it is a time when they can spend precious time with their families and visit temples to observe ancient rites and make merit. There is no doubt that it is a fascinating time to be in Thailand.

In 2021, the “Thai Songkran Festival” was selected by the International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) as one of the three major festivals of Asia.

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The TAT International Public Relations Division works with traditional and online media channels to promote Thailand as a tourism destination for travellers worldwide.

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