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Happy Thai New Year!

Celebrated on April 13th, the occasion marks the passing of the sun from Taurus into Aries. The actual astrological occurance falls sometime between April 10 and April 18 and in Thai tradition it includes the celebration of the end of one year, 'troot' and the beginning of the new, 'Songkran'. The festival dates are determined each year by astrological as well as lunar features following the old Thai lunar calendar.

Today the most famous aspect of Songkran is the throwing of water. Thai people arm themselves with buckets and water hoses along the roadside waiting for pedestrians, motorcyclists and cars to pass by. In the spirit of the day, everything is water drenched and smeared with perfumed talcum powder. The water traditionally is a symbol of cleansing and renewal. It is in the spirit of fun and can be welcome relief at the peak of the hot season in the tropics. The white paste is a sign of protection to ward off evil.

In with the new and out with the old! To mark the New Year, throughout the country, Thai people clean their homes and cleanse Buddha images. Also, tradition calls for the release of caged birds and captive fish. Caged birds are sold in the market just so that they may be released.

In the past, during Songkran, a very special jasmine flower-scented rice dish was served to the royal court called Khao chaeem. Lavish care was given to its preparation. Every grain of rice was chosen individually to ensure that it was perfect, with no husk adhering to it. A firmer variety rice called khao taa haeng was used instead of jasmine rice. Prepared and chilled, the rice was served with elaborate side dishes. Common foods such as fried and shredded salted beef, fried leaf vegetables and Chinese radish were elevated to the highest art being prepared with great attention and care. The fresh vegetables were carved to form ornamental sculptures of fantastic delicacy. Today you might be able to sample this dish in a four-star hotel in Thailand during the festival season.

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