Seasonal Home to a large Chinese community, Thailand is a magical place to kick start the Lunar New Year and take in a wealth of traditional celebrations. Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui all boast Chinese influences, plus warm weather to help welcome the Year of the Fire Rooster.
As the turbulent Year of the Monkey draws to a close, people are looking forward to a more positive Year of the Fire Rooster, and Thailand’s sizeable population of ethnic Chinese citizens is already preparing to celebrate its arrival on 28th
Thailand is exciting place to spend the Chinese Lunar New Year, with an array of processions and celebrations unfolding everywhere from Bangkok’s Chinatown to the Sino-Portuguese quarter of Phuket’s Old Town. Chinese restaurants and shops put on special promotions and the streets are adorned with stunning decorations as the festival progresses.
Many local and visiting families take part in traditional activities such as consulting fortune tellers, honouring their ancestors at Chinese temples, and indulging in special new year dishes such as “long life noodles”.
If you are keen to learn more about how Thailand’s Chinese community celebrate the New Year, the basics are covered below.
olourful procession (Credit: bangkokscoop.com)
Whether you’re in Bangkok, Phuket or Koh Samui for this special celebration, it’s worth heading to the nearest Chinese quarter to get a sense of how the locals celebrate. According to legend, a mythical beast called Nien
heads to town at lunar New Year, intent on destroying people’s homes. In order to pacify him, residents put food by their doors and decorate their homes with paper lanterns, banners and posters. This is a traditional that still continues today, and has given rise to the colourful parades and processions that characterise Chinese New Year celebrations across Thailand. There are street festivities galore, and some people set off firecrackers as a way of keeping the frightful Nien
As with many special festivals, a major part of the festivities at Chinese New Year focus around food. Traditionally, families prepare exquisite feasts of traditional cuisine with certain dishes considered particularly lucky. Each dish will have its own symbolic meaning, and eating it during the 16-day period over the Lunar New Year is said to bring good luck. For example, feasting on spring rolls and dumplings is said to bring you wealth, while certain noodle dishes will bring happiness and longevity. The New Year’s Eve meal in particular is a special occasion, as Chinese families use it as a time to honour the spirits of their ancestors.
Looking to the Future
Each lunar year in the Chinese calendar corresponds to its own zodiac animal, with people born in this year said to exhibit qualities reflected by that creature. As New Year approaches, many Chinese people consult fortune-tellers to see what the year ahead has in store for them, and this year, it’s the Year of the Fire Rooster. Your fortune is informed by a wealth of factors from the date of your birth to the position of the stars at the time, and the horoscope that the fortune-teller puts together is based on a host of traditional beliefs and theories. It’s often thought that your own birth year will bring bad luck, so wearing red can ward off misfortune.
Honour your Ancestors
Many events on the Chinese calendar involve certain activities to honour a family’s ancestors, and the lunar New Year is no exception. The burning of fake paper money – also known as ghost money – is a custom that goes back thousands of years. It is thought that they can use the properties of gifts burnt in honour of ancestors in the afterlife. Ghost money is often printed to look like regular cash, or can sometimes be created with silver or gold emblems. Today, people will burn an array of items they think might be useful to the spirits of their ancestors, including credit cards, mobile phones and even iPads.
In With The New
Although Chinese New Year is not an official holiday in Thailand, there’s still plenty to do. Bangkok’s Chinatown is perhaps one of the best places to celebrate and send out the old year and welcome in the new in style. The dragon parade that takes place in the streets of Chinatown on New Year’s Eve is unmissable, and on New Year’s Day you should visit the temples and shrines to pay your respects to the ancient Chinese gods and goddesses. You will see many locals lighting fortune sticks if they are looking for the answer to a specific question, or hoping for good luck in the New Year.