This year’s Water Festival in Yunnan falls on April 15. A huge celebration was held in the home of the Dai ethnic group in Xishuangbanna Prefecture. While the enthusiasm of this event hasn’t dried up yet (so do people’s shoes), let me spray you with some information.
As you might know, some ethnic groups have their own special date that they consider the beginning of a new year, such as Ugadi (March or April) of Hindu in some parts of India, and the Lunar New Year (January or February) in China. Water Festival is also a mark for the New Year. It falls roughly between 13 and 15 of April and is celebrated by a few countries in Southeast Asia including Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. However, its origin seems to be related to the Dai ethnic minority group inhabited in Yunnan, China. The Water Festival occurs during the New Year celebrations of the Dai Calendar. In addition, it is believed that the native Thai people were originally Dai as some of them fled to Thailand during the invasion of the Mongols in ancient time. Thus, Water Festival is held in Yunnan, China as well. Nowadays, the Dai ethnic group mainly lives in the Xishuangbanna Prefecture of Yunnan province.
On the day April 15, tens of thousands of people gathered on the Water Spraying Square in Xishuangbanna, with gears in hand (plastic basins or water gun). Local folks wearing Dai traditional festival clothes were joined by tourists. It was the last day of a series of events in celebrating the 1376th New Year on the Dai calendar. People were going to splash, spray, or douse water to each other.
Water is regarded as a symbol of health and happiness. The action of sprinkling or splashing water to others is a show of blessings and good wills. However, a gentle sprinkle gradually turns into a more cheer-making water fight.