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Sharing a piece of home

Students from the Thailand and Malaysia Clubs collaborated to celebrate the Songkran Festival that includes a giant water fight

six students pose for the camera with white chalk paint on their faces, holding water guns and a bucket of chalk paint.
Students at the Songkran festival
Photo by Mutia Parasduhita

Cheers and laughter filled BYU–Hawaii’s Flag Circle during the Songkran Festival on April 6. The Thailand Club invited the Malaysia Club to celebrate their cultural event together. The Thailand Club presidency painted Thai chalk on the participant’s faces as a way to welcome them. Jatuphon Phakdeerat, a sophomore majoring in business marketing from Thailand, said it is a traditional way to complete their cultural authenticity and to make them feel welcomed and a sign of “good luck.” This chalk is a traditional face paint made from face powder mixed with water.

A boy, facing the camera, smiling and cheering high fives a girl, facing away from the camera.
Photo by Mutia Parasduhita

According to, Songkran is linked with the Aries constellation that marks the start of the new year. Playing with water is part of the celebration as a symbol to wash away any misfortune. Traditionally, families gather and show respect to their elders, ancestors and Buddha images. Phakdeerat explained during this day, Buddhists normally celebrate it in a spiritual way and wash their Buddhist images around the town as a way to respect them.


Right before the official activity started, suddenly the sunny day turned cloudy. Within a minute, the rain poured heavily for 10 minutes. Aiyarat Buachaiya, a senior majoring in communication from Thailand, said, “It’s a blessing." He continued, “Even though the rain is coincidental, it’s a nice cleansing sign to start a new year.”

A group of students getting splashed with water.
Photo by Mutia Parasduhita

Jason Tan, a senior majoring in computer science from Malaysia, said he has always been aware of the Songkran Festival but never celebrated it. He said the Thailand Club did a good job in introducing this culture. “Although the weather at the venue was a little unpredictable and not ideal for the splashing of water,” he said, “the enthusiasm and hospitality of the people made up for it.”

Shared culture

Phakdeerat said the biggest Songkran Festival he has participated in lasted for three days from April 13-15. He explained how the Thai government throws a party for the people who live in each province and provide food. “The festival normally starts at [noon and goes until midnight], beginning with a firefighter who goes around the town pouring water to the people on the street. Then a massive water fight begins,” explained Phakdeerat. Famous local artists are invited to come and do a concert to hype up the festival.

Students standing in a line, passing water cupped in their hands.
Photo by Mutia Parasduhita

Buachaiya said one day when he was talking with the Malaysian Club president, he learned that many Thai immigrants in West Malaysia celebrate Songkran and had introduced it to the Malaysian community. He said, “Knowing this, I tried to make it happen here in Hawaii so the Thai will feel like home even though they are far from home and to share the culture with the neighboring country.”