St Petersburg University celebrates Songkran, the Thai New Year
On 13 April, the peoples of South-East Asia celebrate the New Year. On that day, the University experts in Thai studies arranged a celebration which was attended by both Russian and Thai students and teachers. Guests of Songkran were introduced to the traditions and festive national cuisine of Thailand.
Natcheewan Mekratanakulpat is Assistant Lecturer in the Department of the South-East and Korean Philology at St Petersburg University and the organiser of the event. In her welcoming speech, she thanked all those present for their participation in the event. Associate Professor Sergei Dmitrenko, Head of the Department of the South-East and Korean Philology at St Petersburg University, said that today the New Year is celebrated by all countries whose people practice Theravada Buddhism, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Sergei Dmitrenko also congratulated all those present in the Khmer language.
Students described the traditions and rituals of Songkran. Anastasiia Pavlova is a fourth-year student in the bachelor’s programme "The history of Thailand". She described the process of the three-day celebration of the New Year. The first day is considered a time for purification and cleaning. On the second day, the Thais prepare offerings and meals. The third day is the celebration itself. She advised tourists to leave their phones at hotels and to bring extra clothes as Thais go out into the streets and throw water on everyone they meet, which is considered a symbol of purification and regeneration. ’The word Songkran itself means change. It is the change of seasons when the hot season is replaced by the rainy season,’ she said.
Valeriia Shtepa, a student of Asian and African Studies, spoke about the games that Cambodians participate in during the New Year period. These included tug of war, for example. The guests agreed that many Songkran activities were similar to the traditions of the peoples of Russia.
Natalia Tsyrempilova, a fourth-year student in The History of Thailand programme, demonstrated the ritual of ablution of the Buddha statue. She said that this ritual is associated with three key events in the life of the Buddha: birth, enlightenment, and passing into nirvana. Ablutions, whether performed in temples or at home, are accompanied by prayers for general well-being and prosperity. Thais also perform ablutions of the hands of elderly relatives (parents and grandparents) as a demonstration of respect and reverence.
Anastasiia Ostrianina, a graduate of St Petersburg University and an employee at the Honorary Consulate of Thailand, spoke about her professional path. She described her work in diplomatic offices and shared her impressions of the Songkran celebrations in Thailand.
The event was concluded with a quiz on knowledge of Thai and Cambodian traditions, conducted by Aliia Khabibullina, a student of St Petersburg University.
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