Chinese New year is the biggest festival for the Chinese people across the world. The Chinese New Year festival is also known as the spring festival and has been celebrated since thousands of years, in fact since almost 2698 BC.
The Chinese New Year celebration is a fifteen day celebration, starting with a thorough house cleaning on the New Year’s Eve and reaching a pinnacle on the fifteenth day, with the Lantern Festival. The Chinese New year celebrations aim to bid adieu to the old year that was, and, usher the New Year while reuniting with family and friends.
The New Year celebration festivities are as such that, it is celebrated everywhere in the world. Apart from China, in various other countries of the world, wherever there is Chinese community and settlement, people celebrate the advent and the New Year with a whole lot of fun and fervor.
Celebrations in Thailand –
Thailand, situated in South east Asia’s peninsular region, is a picturesque country where the Chinese have settled since hundreds of years. Though officially 14% of the population is Chinese, but a far greater percentage identify themselves as Thai-Chinese and follow the Chinese customs.
The Chinese settled in Bangkok were moved to what is known as Chinatown in 1782 to build the Grand Palace complex. Thus, boasting of a sizeable Chinese expatriates, the New Year celebration is Bangkok, Thailand is second to only the mainland, China.
Chinese New year is celebrated with all the rituals and fanfare in Thailand, as it is in China. Thus cleaning the house on the New Year’s eve to sweep away the ill luck of last year to waiting up post the midnight to welcome prosperity, to giving red envelope or the Hang Bao, bursting loud crackers to scare away the evil spirit, to preparing a huge dinner for the reunion dinner, praying to deities, burning incense are all a part of celebration in Thailand too. Though the festivities and all rituals are followed till fifteen days only, the main festive days are the main three days associated to the New Year. The main festivities are the Spring Festival eve, then the Spring Festival or the New Year eve followed by the New Year’s Day. These festivities are even attended by the Thai princess. Celebrations start at Chinatown or what is called Yaowarat and continue from there.
According to legends, a mythical beast called “Nien” would come to wreak ravage on people’s home. to placate this beast, the residents of the town keep some food at their door, and wear red color and decorate their house with things of red color to ward off the evil and to bring them good luck.
Though the Chinese New Year day is not a public holiday, people generally take one day off to celebrate with their family and friends. New Year’s Eve is the time to pray to the Gods and to the ancestors. During the main day of the New Year, traffic from all sides is shut down of Yaowarat Road .the brilliant jewel colored Lion dancers can be seen on the roads, showing off their fantastic acrobatic skills. It is relevant to mention that Lion dances are not always performed. Thus it is the New Year is the best time to see the Lion dance, accompanied by the sounds of the beating drums, clashing cymbals and resounding gongs.
Apart from the Lion Dance, be prepared to watch some incredible Dragon Parade. In the Dragon Parades, Chinese and Thai dancers collaborate to make a long Giant with glistening scales, snake through Yaowarat Road. The tail of the Dragon is magnificently long and takes dozens of men to operate this hundred plus foot long Dragon. The Dragon is lit to life when the LED lights are lit in the Dragon. Even the Thai Royal Family is present to view this spectacular Dragon parade and the Thai nationals cheer for them and also the Chinese origin people take immense pride in their cultural heritage.
As darkness descends, the city starts looking magical with a lot of lanterns being lit. Post Sun down musicians and dancers perform at a stage near the Chinatown gate. Acrobatics spin on 40 foot poles with firecrackers of their feet. Apart from the firecrackers, be prepared to see spectacular fireworks commemorating the advent of the New Year.
To pay homage, one can go to the temples in and around the China town. Two of the must visit temples are situated just across the Choa Phraya River. Wat Arun and the Mang Nguan Ha Shrine are the temples most frequented and also the Thai princesses come to pray here only. These temple and the surrounding premises begin to look great at dawn, because of the numerous lanterns hanging around. The other two temples worth visiting are – Kuan Yim Shrine and Dragon Flower Temple. The Dragon Flower Temple is generally thick with intense smoke but the New Year lends it an extra aura. One can buy a candle and incense and light them light as an offering or pay heed to the traditions and buy some special Joss paper bank notes for burning.
A quick recap of each day of the festivities may be helpful –
- Spring Festival’s day is the Chinese New Year eve. Small events and various parades take place. They originate from the Chinatown area. Throughout the day one can expect to see Lion and Dragon dances. In the evenings, families host traditional New Year reunion dinner for their friends and family.
- Spring Festival or the Chinese New Year will see an endless sea of Lion and Dragon dancers throughout the day proceeding towards the various temples in Bangkok.
- New Year’s Day or the first day of the Lunar New Year is a day for resting and spending with friends and family. The area around Chinatown still wears a very festive look and is a great place to be around.
- The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. People will go out lanterns. Some lanterns bear the name of the owners and their year of birth, but most others are traditional form of art, resembling various animals, characters etc.
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