By Oluseye Ojo


•Thai citizens enjoying themselves at the event


In a vibrant display of tradition and unity, hundreds of Thais living in Nigeria converged on Gafaru Animashaun Street in Lagos to joyously celebrate the Songkran festival.

The festival heralded the commencement of the Year 2568 for the global Thai community. It showcased the rich tapestry of cultural diversity that thrives within the global community.

The event, organised by the Thai Community in Nigeria and the Chief Executive Officer of Orchid House Thai Restaurant, Ms. Nattanee Booncharoen, popularly known as Madam Tukie, was a colourful and joyful celebration of Thailand’s cultural heritage.

The celebration of Songkran in Nigeria drew attention to the close connection Thais living abroad maintain with their homeland.

The festival reminded the Thais in the country of their cultural roots and also provided an opportunity for cultural exchange and understanding among nations.

The festival, which traditionally lasts for three days, is a religious and cultural ritual for the Thai people. It begins with paying respects to Buddha on April 13th, followed by honouring the elderly on April 14th, and culminates in blessing each other with water on April 15th.

In recent times, the water pouring ritual has evolved into a fun-filled water fight, symbolising the washing away of the previous year’s challenges and welcoming a fresh start.

The Songkran celebration in Nigeria saw vibrant colours and symbols, representing Thailand’s cultural heritage.

Participants wore floral-print clothes, symbolising the arrival of spring and the end of the hottest season. Water drums lined the street, while large parasols, flags, and floating lights added to the festive atmosphere.

The event attracted numerous dignitaries, including construction magnate Mrs. Remi Agbowu and Senator Daisy Danjuma.

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It also provided an opportunity for cultural exchange, as participants from different nationalities were invited to join the festivities.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recognises Songkran as a means of deepening cultural awareness and inspiring cultural preservation.

The festival brings together Thai families to bond, share companionship, food, music, and traditional art. By celebrating Songkran, the Thai community in Nigeria promotes cultural exchange and preserves their rich cultural heritage.

Speaking about the event, the CEO of Orchid House Thai Restaurant, Booncharoen, expressed optimism for future celebrations, hoping to see an even bigger and more inclusive event in the coming years.

She emphasised the importance of showcasing Thai cuisine and traditions to both Nigerians and other nationalities, with a view to creating a beautiful cultural experience.

Her words: “In the future, we want to turn this street to these colours (Thai colours) with every restaurant attracted here to join us to make it bigger. Coming up maybe next year or two years, all this street will be full with people. That is what we are planning. This year, we want to make people to see what we are doing and what we can do.”

Booncharoen also explained some symbolic features of the festival. Said Booncharoen: “The water washes away the bad luck for last year and makes you come free for the new year. It is like a culture where you pour water on your people with similar meaning like that. But this one we do for long, long years back in Thailand.

“What we want to do is to hold Songkran Water Festival in Nigeria. Also, when the people we have invited have come, we will showcase the food, to let them taste our original Thai food on ground here in Nigeria.

“We will be there to make fun and in-between the events we have our traditional people come to attend and mix together. That is why Songkran is really beautiful.”

A Nigerian participant, James Emoka, described the festival as a refreshing break from life’s challenges. He added that the event was exciting, rejuvenating, and mind-clearing.

“I love to play with water guns. I’m a kid at heart. Though I’ve known about the Songkran, it’s my first time actually coming. It’s exciting, mind rejuvenating and quite refreshing. It’s very good to just help you forget what you are going through in life, you know how sometimes life can be rocky,” he said.

A member of Nigeria Coordinating Committee of the Thailand Community in the country, Mr. Nawapad Wichitchan, also stated: “The Songkran, the Thai new year, is marked by the coming together of Thai families to celebrate the New Year. This is the hottest day in the year in Thailand. So, the water fight while cooling the temperature, signifies the passing of the hot season and the transition to the rainy season.”

Ms. Nayufa Dangprasittiforn, another member of the coordinating committee, said: “It is an event in Thailand and the UNESCO recognises it as an avenue for cultural exchange. It is important for Thai nationals to celebrate this even if they are far from home and we have a big Thai community in Lagos. People from other nations can participate, enjoy the food, the water fight and give blessings to each other.

“Originally, we just pour the water on the older people softly to give a wish or a blessing. That is the traditional way but it has been developed into a water fight.”

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