Crowds of strangers leave the Songkran water festival with hundreds of new friends and the dire need for a nap. The exhilarating festival rings in the New Year with water guns, elephants, and lots of fun. It’s not all about the party though.

A series of traditional events leads up to the water gun extravaganza. Participants must perform good deeds and go through rituals to wash away the sins of last year. Bad luck escapes down the drain too. These quieter customs are just as fulfilling as Thailand’s flashier traditions.

The official holiday takes place on April 13th, but celebrations can last up to a week. If the mere explanation of the concept wasn’t reason enough to mark the calendars, pictures of the event should get the job done.

12 Everyone Else Will Be There

Thousands of citizens pour out onto the streets of Thailand for the Songkran water festival since it celebrates one of the country’s most important holidays. Other participants rush in from neighboring countries. The streets of big cities like Bangkok are transformed by an influx of party-hungry guests.

11 Strangers Feel Like Friends

Spraying unsuspecting guests with water is unthinkable under normal circumstances. Water gun fights are reserved for usually reserved for friends. The Songkran water festival erases those boundaries. Travel Happy just advises that water festival participants avoid spraying people who look like they don’t want to get wet.

10 Temples Are Fixed Up Just In Time For The Holiday

Sprucing up sites that attract lots of tourists when popular holidays come around is just good business. Cities that depend entirely on tourism likely keep their tourist attractions polished year-round. Regions that see less traffic will get back to work just in time for events like Songkran.

9 Kids Love Making A Mess

Children will jump at the chance to enter a water gun fight or smear chalk on each others' faces. The latter traditions comes from the monks’ use of chalk to write blessings, according to Pure Travel. Though children now also use clay instead of chalk for an even bigger mess.

8 Adults Of All Ages Are Welcome Too

There’s no age limit for this festival. Older adults wielding bright water guns are no rare sight during Songkran. Part of the holiday is actually meant to honor older generations. According to Green Pearls, young people “wash their parents’ hands and feet” with scented water to celebrate.

7 Taste Dishes Unique To Special Occasions

The dish on the left is larb gai and on the right is thung thong. Gulf News included thung thong on a list of delicacies served during Songkran. While it isn’t expensive or difficult to make, thung thong is served on special occasions because the wrapped meats resemble money bags.

6 No Worries About Being Alone On The Streets After Sundown

Travel Happy states that the party goes on into the night in the busiest parts of cities. Tourists can explore freely in the evening without the fear of ending up alone in an unrecognizable part of town. Vigilance is still important though since the pickpockets will definitely be out.

Related: 10 Of The Most Dangerous Cities In Asia

5 Not All Of The Celebration Is About Getting Wet

Observers of Songkran deliver various gifts to local Buddhist temples on the day. According to Feast Thailand, that includes food and clothes for the monks and sand. The sand is piled into mounds outside and formed into miniature temples. They can be embellished with flowers and flags.

Related: 10 Must-See Temples In Thailand

4 Cleansing Traditions Mark The New Year

Everyone gets a bath on Songkran including holy statues, says Take Me Tour. Scented water is drizzled onto small Buddhas while volunteers carry large statues through the street. Each citizen gets a chance to fling their fair share of water that way. The statue shown here is the Phra Buddha Sihing in Chiang Mai.

3 The Fashion Is On Point

These tourists have chosen the ideal outfits for some Songkran fun. Modern trends encourage participates to pull on their most colorful clothing before they head out onto the streets. Floral patterns are a popular pick for anyone who wants to wear something special. Wearing expensive clothing should be avoided.

Related: 10 Bizarre Festivals In Asia You Need to Experience

2 Elephants May Have An Unfair Advantage

Even the elephants know not to leave home before they’re fully decked out in the vibrant Songkran garb. They’re led through the city during the water festival to douse pedestrians. Since elephants are a Thai national symbol, as stated on Asian Itinerary, it only makes sense that they’d show up.

1 Get Equipped For Free

The local government shows annual support for this holiday. Dense crowds would be enough to shut down roads, but they’re also formally blocked off. Barrels of water are put out on the street for participants to refill their guns. Anyone without a gun many be given a bucket for free.

Next: Anthony Bourdain In Thailand: 15 Memorable Experiences He Recommended