Water-splashing scrapped for Songkran festival amid drought


TAIPEI–The annual Songkran water festival was held Sunday as usual in New Taipei City but the organizers decided to forego the customary water splashing activities this year in favor of a foot-washing ritual, as Taiwan remained in the grip of its worst drought in decades.

The ceremonial part of the Asian festival took the form a recital of Buddhist sutras and a washing of feet, while the entertainment aspects included Thai and Myanmar cultural performances.

The annual Songkran festival is usually hosted by New Taipei City, which has a new immigrant population of about 90,000, most of whom are from Southeast Asian countries and now live in the city’s Nanshijiao area.

In light of a persistent nationwide drought, the city decided this year not to hold the customary large-scale water-splashing rituals, which signify good wishes among the participants, said New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu.

He said celebrating the festival by means of asking Buddha to bless the people and help ease the drought is just as meaningful and helps to conserve water.

New Taipei attaches great importance to its new immigrants and considers them an asset to Taiwan, Chu said.

He said the children of new immigrants, who are fluent in their mother tongues, may one day be able to serve as Taiwan ambassadors to promote economic, trade and cultural links with Southeast Asian countries.

The festival includes a photography competition, a film screening and a book fair that is being held at 435 Art Zone in Banqiao until Monday, according to a city official.

At Sunday’s celebrations, some 1,000 bowls of sticky rice ball dumplings and 3,000 gourmet food vouchers were handed out free of charge.