Do They Celebrate Chinese (Lunar) New Year In Thailand?

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The Chinese new year festival is a wonderful experience to behold, and everyone should experience this at least once during their lifetime. The Chinese new year festival is celebrated all across the globe on multiple continents, and Thailand is no exception.

Thailand is no stranger to the Chinese new year festival, as nearly 15% of Thailand’s population is of Chinese descendants, and they celebrate it annually in Thailand. Anyone can experience and enjoy the Chinese new year regardless of ethnicity and religion.  

Also read: Do They Celebrate Thanksgiving In Thailand? | Do They Celebrate Halloween In Thailand?

In 2024 Chinese New Year is on Saturday, February 10, so make a note in your travel diary to be in Thailand on that day and for the next few days thereafter. In the meantime, let’s look at what can be expected.

Is The (CNY) Recognized As A Public Holiday In Thailand?

Many people in Thailand celebrate the Chinese new year, but this tradition is not formally recognized as a public holiday. However, many Thai and Chinese folks will still take annual leave during the lunar new year to spend time with their families and honor their ancestors.

However, Thailand has its own new year that is recognized as a public holiday known as Songkran, the water splashing festival.

Is Songkran On The Lunar New Year Like The Chinese New Year?

Songkran, otherwise known as the water-splashing festival, is Thailand’s new year, which does not share the same date as the Chinese new year and is held on the 13th of April. Songkran is a 3-day celebration held during the Solar new year. The new year is calculated using the solar calendar.

The Chinese new year, known as the lunar new year, does not have a fixed date as it is tied to the new moon. Which occurs sometime between the 21st of January and the 9th of February.

The lunar new year refers to the Chinese festival that occurs during the new moon and is typically a 15-day event. However, it ends on the next full moon. And unlike Songkran, the New year is calculated using the lunar calendar.

Best Places To Experience Chinese New Year In Thailand

Although The Thai Government does not recognize the Chinese new year as a formal public holiday, the Chinese and other locals still celebrate the lunar new year across Thailand. However, you are looking for the best place to celebrate Thailand’s Lunar New Year. In that case, Yaowaraj, Bangkok, is the place for you.

Yaowaraj is a china town inside of Bangkok, and each year, they host some of the best Chinese festivals outside of china. Each year, they will block off the roads going through Yaowaraj to have a massive celebration on the 4-lane street. And the streets get flooded by dancing dragons, red Chinese lanterns, and other traditional decorations.

Another place you could visit in Thailand during the Chinese new year is Phuket. Some locations within Phuket host Chinese new year festivals, like Thalang Road, Phang Nga Road, and Dibuk Road, all hosting their own Chinese new year festivals. Another benefit of going to Phuket is that they host many beach parties around this time and traditional festivals.

You should visit the Warorot Market in Chiang Mai’s historic district if you prefer a more subdued celebration. Along the streets’ sidewalks, there are stands selling food and knickknacks. Be prepared to walk for the day and devour the delicacies specially prepared for the occasion.

Bangkok’s Talad Noi district observes the Chinese New Year more somberly. Although there aren’t as many people as in Yaowarat, there is still the same celebratory, upbeat atmosphere here. It is home to the oldest Hokkien Chinese shrine in the city, Chow Sue Kong Shrine. It is a tranquil neighborhood with opulent Chinese mansions and unmistakable Chinese influence.

In Bangkok, Charoen Krung Street is the place to go for a quieter party atmosphere. Finally, if you are interested in visiting a temple around this time, we recommend these 2 places:

  • The Lengnoeiyi Temple
  • The Mang Nguan Ha Shrine (adjacent to Princess Mother Park)

How Is Chinese New Year Celebrated In Thailand?

The Chinese follow many new year traditions, each having its own symbolism. For example, putting up red decorations, pray for good fortune, offer sacrifices to their ancestors, have feasts with their families, and hand red envelopes to children.

Praying For Fortune And Prosperity

Since the Chinese new year is a spiritual day, the temples are flooded around Thailand with people there to pray for renewal of the bad and old, and welcome the new and the good.

They will also worship their ancestors and pray for a good harvest, for good fortune, over their family and friends. As in the Chinese culture, it is believed that ancestral spirits protect their descendants and lead them to success.

Offering Sacrifices To Ancestors

Offering sacrifices to the ancestors is a means of respect and virtue. And many offer these sacrifices and worship the ancestors before the new year family feast as they let the ancestors eat first as a means of respect.

Gather For The Family Feast

Family is a big part of Chinese culture, and eating together has a significant meaning as it is typically the annual family reunion. Therefore, much effort will be put into the family dinner to make it as perfect as possible and gather as much good luck from the feast.

And therefore, you will find a wide variety of foods with significant meaning, like noodles representing longevity, dumplings expressing togetherness and wealth, oranges and tangerines for good luck, and many more types of foods.

Handing A Red Envelope

Another tradition is to hand children a red envelope known as hóngbāo with money inside it as a means of good luck and good fortune for the year ahead. Although it is mainly handed to children, you can give the red envelopes to friends, family, and colleagues to wish them a prosperous year.

However, there is a legend behind the Red envelopes and why mainly children are handed these red envelopes with money inside them. According to legend, a demon known as ‘Sui’ terrorized sleeping children on New Year’s Eve.

Every New year Sui would come to towns at night and terrorize sleeping children, And as a means to protect their children, the parents would keep their children awake through the lunar night. And one day, a small boy was handed a couple of coins to play with to keep him awake.

However, the boy could not keep his eyes open and eventually drifted off to sleep. Then, Sui came to terrorize the small boy. However, when Sui tried touching the child, the coins emitted a powerful light that drove Sui away.

Therefore today, envelopes are given to children to protect them during the lunar new year, as the red envelopes symbolize the coins that protected the boy in the legend.

Traditions Of Chinese Thai Celebrating Lunar New Year

Ushering in the New Year involves some long-standing traditions practiced by Chinese Thai households.

Cleaning The Home Brings Good Luck

Cleaning the home is done on the eve of the Lunar New Year, as it’s bad luck to do this chore or to get rid of any possessions during the period of festivities. So, sweeping out the ill fortune of the last year, along with the dust, opens the way for good luck and prosperity in the new year.

Family Feast To See Out The Old Year

To be together to welcome in the New Year is a central theme of celebrations, so the family gathers on New Year’s Eve for “Reu Rua,” an elaborate meal of traditional fare while bidding farewell to the old year with all its trials and tribulations and welcoming the new one.

Wearing Brand New Clothes To Begin The New Year

Symbolically shedding the old year, it’s traditional to wear brand-new outfits at the beginning of the New Year, and these are often in shades of red and other bright colors to signify a bright future for the wearer.

Prayers And Offerings At Temples And Shrines

For the more devout, symbolic offerings and prayers are made on New Year’s Eve or the first day of the new year. Many Chinese in Thailand combine certain practices of Chinese folk religion with Theravada Buddhism.

Gatherings And Gift Giving

On the third day of the New Year in particular, but also throughout the festival, the Thai Chinese will get together with close friends and family to exchange gifts and good wishes for the new year. One of the common traditions is the giving and receiving of red and gold envelopes, known as “ang-pao,” which contain money and symbolize health and good fortune. These are given mainly to the children to provide protection for them in the future from evil spirits and bad luck and to provide good fortune in their lives.

All these activities and traditions are part of the Lunar New Year celebrations of the Thai Chinese, but they are not an isolated community. They are assimilated into the general population, and many families have Chinese and Thai roots. For this reason, the Lunar New Year and the celebrations surrounding it are part of the whole country’s culture.

How Is Lunar New Year Celebrated In Different Places?

There are a host of colorful festivities and celebrations of the Lunar New Year, which are open to and enjoyed by all members of the community and are also part of the fun of being in Thailand as a tourist, as visitors are welcome to observe and participate.

Celebrating Lunar New Year In Bangkok

The Chinese population is the highest in certain places, such as Bangkok’s Chinatown. The renowned Yaowarat Road is where the most elaborate lion parades and festivities can be seen and where the New Year atmosphere is at its most exciting, but you can choose quieter areas if you prefer.

Charoen Krung Street and Talad Noi are two of those, or you can visit the stunning temples and shrines in front of the Princess Mother Park to join the locals in their prayer for good fortune in the coming year. Fairs, food festivals, and traditional dancing are great ways to celebrate Lunar New Year with the local Thai people.

Lunar New Year Celebrations In Phuket

While customs and traditions vary in different regions, Phuket, with its large Chinese community, celebrates Lunar New Year in grand style. The annual parade, with its magnificent floats, brightly clad dancers, and performers, is a sight one won’t forget.

As travelers move around the island during Lunar New Year, they can’t help but be amazed by the enthusiasm with which the Thai Chinese celebrate the festival – everywhere, houses, streets, and buildings are festooned with red – lanterns, paper decorations, and traditional ornaments transform the area, and the color is believed to ward off evil, bringing good fortune in the coming year.

Lunar New Year In Chiang Mai

In the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai is famous for its beautiful mountain setting, rich history, and peaceful atmosphere. That changes a little during Lunar New Year, but its legendary street foods, mouth-watering delicacies, and colorful stalls, combined with many cultural activities, make for an outstanding experience.

Celebrating Lunar New Year In A Tribal Village

For something unique in Lunar New Year celebrations, one might be able to visit a small tribal village with the help of a local guide – very few visitors are allowed at any one time, so their assistance is vital.

In these villages, the Lunar New Year festivities have none of the commercial entertainment found in the cities but are based on their unique indigenous customs, which vary from region to region and provide a fascinating insight into local culture.

Highlights Of Lunar New Year Festivities in Thailand

Having looked at Lunar New Year celebrations in different areas, there are certain activities that are common throughout Thailand and shouldn’t be missed.

Lion and Dragon Dances

Colorful and vibrant lion and dragon dances are a feature of Lunar New Year celebrations in all the major centers in Thailand and take place mainly in the first three days. The lion dancers perform intricate acrobatic movements accompanied by the beats of drums and cymbals.

Dragon dances feature a long, ornately decorated dragon puppet symbolizing power and prosperity, which is controlled by poles held by skilled dancers, who writhe and twist the dragon as they parade through the streets.

Street Markets and Food Stalls

During the Lunar New Year celebrations, street markets and food stalls are set up and offer locals and tourists alike an irresistible array of festive foods, traditional delicacies, and souvenirs. While some Chinese restaurants and businesses close for the first two or three days of the Lunar New Year, there is no shortage of places to enjoy Thai hospitality.

What Is The Significance Of Red In The Chinese New Year?

The color red is quite significant in Chinese culture as it is the color of luck.

On a fateful New Year’s night, a mythical beast called Nian emerged from the dark that came down and attacked villages and cities, killing people and livestock. And unfortunately, the people had no idea how to defend themselves against Nian, as none of their weaponry was effective against the beast.

However, One day, they discovered that Nian was afraid of Three things: red, Loud Noises, and fire. Upon finding this out, the villagers would gather all the red decorations they could find and hang them around their houses and the village.

Then, when Nian returned, they would set off loud firecrackers and bang on pans and pots to scare away the mythical beast, which worked. And therefore, this is one of the many reasons why everything is decorated in Red and why firecrackers and fireworks are set off all over Thailand.