Water feast also called a water festival is the New Year celebrations, which take place in countries found in Southeast Asia such as Burma, Laos, Cambodia, China, Yunnan, and Thailand. This festival is called the water festival because water is splashed on one another as part of a cleansing ritual in welcoming the New Year. Traditionally, people sprinkled water gently on one another as a sign of respect. Pouring water on one another is also a sign of blessings and good biddings.
Amongst the Dai ethnic minority of Xishangbanna, the annual water splashing festival is the most important festival in their calendar. This festival lasts for as long as three days continuously. Their celebrations include lighthearted religious rituals, which eventually end up with partying and everyone being splashed with water.
During the three-day celebrations, the first two days activities are usually focused around the banks of the lancing river. The first day is marked with a grand celebration to show the beginning of the festival. During this time, an open market is set for people to shop for the New Year. At night, the locals lit the banks of the river with lanterns floating on the river. This is a popular tradition amongst the Chinese, which is still practiced in many cities today. It is believed that by planting the lanterns on the river, you drive bad luck away and invite good luck.
The third day being the last day is usually reserved for the most important practice of during this festival, the splashing of the water. On this day, the Dai put on their best clothes then head to the temple where monks read the Buddhist scriptures. Afterward, symbolic water splashing is done. This involves taking the Buddhist statue out of the temple to a courtyard where it splashed with water, a ritual known as “ Bathing the Buddha”.
The end of the ritual is usually a sign of encouraging the mortals to engage in mutual water splashing. People flock to the streets with all kinds of containers and utensils with water and splash, douse, and spray each other with water.
Apart from being fun, this festival has its religious part. According to the Dai, water is a symbol of both religious purity and goodwill among people. Therefore, anyone with water during this festival is a symbol of the craving for good luck and prosperity to the person.
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