April 13 kicked off three days of celebration for the traditional Thai New Year, called Songkran. In New York City, the holiday was celebrated early with an event on Sunday, April 12 at Elmhurst Hospital in Jackson Heights, with traditional Thai dancing, food, and a water ceremony.
Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram Temple, the Royal Thai Consul General Pornpong Kanittanon, and council member Daniel Dromm hosted the Queens event. This was the first time Songkran was celebrated at Elmhurst Hospital, bringing traditional ceremonies from Buddhist temples to a diverse gathering of community members.
Songkran is known as the water festival, and is celebrated with a ceremony of pouring water on other people’s hands as a sign of respect. In Thailand, people throw water on each other—sometimes using water guns—as a fun way to wash away bad luck and bring in prosperity in the new year.
“We look forward to this day every year,” said Juttana Rimreartwate. This April, he was happy to share Thai culture with the broader community in Queens. “Jackson Heights represents cities around the world,” said Rimreartwate. “The message to everybody else is we can live together, have happiness together.” Fifty-seven percent of the Thai community in New York City lives in Queens, according to census data from 2010.
The first day of Songkran also coincided with Cambodian New Year on April 13.