Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Water Festival!

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The Greater Lowell Water Festival is held every third Saturday of August, and it brings so much joy to the Southeast Asian population in the greater Lowell area and even around the country. Over 60,000 people from around the country and even the world come to Lowell to celebrate water as it is celebrated in Southeast Asia.

The Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival, Inc. is dedicated to the preservation, protection and sharing of cultural heritages of the Southeast Asian Americans in the Greater Lowell area of Massachusetts.”

Due to COVID-19, precautions were taken to protect the community and so the festival had been canceled in 2020 and 2021. But this year, for its 25th anniversary, the Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival is happening on August 20th, 2022 at Pawtucket Boulevard in Lowell!

flyer for the 25th anniversary of the lowell southeast asian water festival

 

The first water festival celebration was started by the numerous Khmer residents of Lowell in 1997. Then a few years later in 2002, “representatives of Lowell’s Khmer, Thai, Vietnamese, and Laotian communities incorporated the Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival, Inc as a 501c3 tax exempt non-profit corporation.”

Attendees can expect numerous vendors from across the state along with food, crafts, blessings, and culturally significant performances. While much anticipated, the exciting boat races won’t be taking place this year as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19. 

While celebrating water and all its blessings is a tradition throughout Southeast Asia, there are a number of variances across each culture that are unique and full of thousands of years of tradition.  According to the Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival Inc., some of this history includes:

 

Cambodia: 

“In Cambodia, when the Mekong River swells from August to November, the waters flow into Tonle Sap Lake from the south to the north. Then in the low water season following November, the lake waters ebb and the flow reverses back from the Tonle Sap Lake into the Mekong River, leaving an abundance of fish for the villagers. The silt that is carried by the flood waters is extremely fertile. For this reason the Khmer people chose the full moon of Kae Kadek to conduct the Water Festival, the procession of Illuminated Floats called Loy Pratip, the salutation to the moon known as Sampas Prah Kae, and the offering of bananas and newly pounded rice from the harvest to the Mekong River and Tonle Sap called Ork Ombok.”

“Over the course of time, the people of Cambodia celebrated the annual festival as a thanksgiving to the gods of Water and Earth, to express thanks to Buddha, to pray for happiness, and to wish for sufficient rain for rice cultivation.”

 

Laos: 

”In Laos, water is celebrated two times during the year. The first celebration is held during the New Year in April called Songran or Water Festival, which is a three-day affair. The first day, water is used for washing homes, Buddha images, monks, and soaking friends and passers-by. Students first respectfully pour water on their elders, then monks for blessings of long life and peace, and last of all they throw water on each other. The water is perfumed with flowers or natural perfumes.”

“Boun Nam (Water Festival) is also held in October and is a festival held in the waterways, characterized by boat races in major towns.”

 

Thailand: 

“The Thai New Year, also called Songkran or Water Festival was originally a gentle and traditional religious event during which water was sprinkled as a symbol of purification and as an act of worship to the Rice Goddess and the ancestral, ground, and water spirits. Also a three-day event, the first day usually begins with an early morning ceremony at the temple when alms are offered to the monks. Later, at home, family members come together to pay their respects to the elders in the family when scented, petal strewn waters are gently poured over the old people’s hands. The elders in turn, wish the younger generation good luck and prosperity.”

 

To read the full history of each culture, please visit: http://lowellwaterfestival.org/history/ and come celebrate the 25th anniversary of the water festival on August 20, 2022!

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