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Celebrating Chinese New Year in Thailand

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Thailand

This year, the Chinese New Year is celebrated on February 19, according to the lunar calendar. It’s also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar Year. A zodiac animal sign represents each new year making this the Year of the Sheep.

Thai Chinese represent more than 14 percent of Thailand’s population, so the Chinese New Year is an important day for them. It is one of the country’s public holidays, although most businesses are open.

Celebrations occur throughout most cities and towns, where Thai Chinese honor their ancestors in a variety of ways. There are traditional offering ceremonies where feasts are prepared for the spirits of the departed. Street vendors sell such things as paper whiskey bottles, paper telephones and paper money, which people purchase and burn as offerings to their ancestors.

Other Chinese New Year’s traditions include offerings to household deities, wearing new clothes (usually red), spring cleaning of houses, preparing a huge dinner for family and friends, taking part in lion and dragon dances, and watching the parades filled with acrobatic demonstrations, beating gongs, lanterns and loud cymbals. Celebrations also include live music and fireworks. 

Two flowers serve as symbolic decorations of the Chinese New Year. The plum blossom is symbolic of courage and hope, and the water narcissus is symbolic of good luck and good fortune. In place of the actual flowers, there are writings on diamond-shaped pieces of red paper seen in many homes and businesses referring to the symbolic nature of the flowers.

The color red is seen often in clothing, decorations, and envelopes with money enclosed given to children, as it symbolizes happiness, good luck, success, good fortune, and the power to ward off evil spirits.

Although offerings and prayers play a significant role in the Chinese New Year, there are also high-energy celebrations throughout Thailand. Not surprisingly, Bangkok’s Chinatown holds the largest of them, but there are festivities in Ayutthaya, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and the southwest regions on the Andaman Sea in Phuket, Trang and Krabi.

The History of the Chinese New Year
 The Chinese New Year dates back to prehistory, marking the beginning of the lunar cycle. Each year is assigned an animal. It is believed that Buddha promised all the animals they would receive gifts if they came to honor him, but only twelve different ones attended. To reward the twelve, each one was given one of the 12 years of the Chinese zodiac. Many Chinese believe that people bear similar characteristics of the animal sign under which they are born.

The Year of the Sheep
 Two-thousand fifteen is the Year of the Sheep. Although the sheep is loved for its sweet and kind ways, some superstitious people do not want their children to be born under its sign. They believe their children will grow up to be docile and subservient, destined to be followers rather than leaders. 

A popular folk saying purports that only one in ten people born in the Year of the Sheep find happiness. As a result, many women are holding off getting pregnant during this time. A recent CNN article said that the number of pregnant women in Chinese hospitals is much lower than usual as the New Year approaches.

For those not worrying about having child this year, the Chinese New Year is a meaningful and festive event enjoyed by the people of Thailand. As a reporter of the Australian Daily Telegraph exclaimed, “…the Chinese New Year festivities are the best, baa none.” (Our apologies.)

Happy New Year!
Posted Feb 17, 2015