Songkran or as it is now known as the Thai New Year started in Lanna around 700 hundred years ago. Then the Lanna Kingdom comprised of North and Northeast Thailand, parts of Laos, Burma and southern Yunnan Province China. Songkran today is still celebrated in these areas except Burma where it has been banned by the military government there.
Songkran was not celebrated in the rest of Thailand until around the 1950?s. In Bangkok then most of the workers, as today, came from the north or northeast part of Thailand. When Songkran came around, April 13 ? 15, most of the workers just left work and went to their villages for the New Year. For this reason the government and most businesses had to shut down for Songkran. For this reason this is now an official holiday in Thailand.
The meaning of water during Songkran is very important. Pouring water on each other and Buddha statues is to wash away the past and a cleansing for the future year. This started as just pouring water on the hands or on the shoulder of others with a small cup of water. This has now grown into the largest water fight on the planet.
Here is a short streaming video of the festival over a two day period. The first day, April 13, is the Songkran parade, which takes place on Muangchareon and Thapae roads at 2 PM and lasts around 3 hours. We then hit the streets to join the water fight mostly concentrated along the moat in the city center.