Bangkok is home to one of the best Chinese New Year celebrations out of China itself. The New Year is based on Chinese lunar calendar. In Gregorian calendar, the first day begins on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February. In 2019, the first day falls on February 5th. It will be the Year of the Pig, according to Chinese Zodiac represented by 12 animals. If you are in Bangkok at this time, be prepared for crowds of worshippers and Chinese descendants, fireworks, lion and dragon dances, and signs of pigs everywhere!
Though the festivity is at its heights in Bangkok’s Chinatown (Yaowarat), the celebrations take place nationwide as there are Chinese communities throughout Thailand. You’ll find the celebrations in Chiang Mai, Nakhon Sawan, Phuket equally exciting. Note that in 2020, 2021, and 2022, the New Year’s Day fall on January 15th, February 12th, February 1st respectively.
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Though New Year celebration lasts 16 days, from New Year’s Eve to the 15th day of the New Year – the Lantern Festival, it features 3 important activities, nicknamed as “Shopping Day”, “Praying Day’, and “Going Out Day”. The Shopping Day is the day before New Year’s Eve when people go shopping for food and god offerings. Markets in Chinese communities across Thailand are packed as people stock up the supplies they will need for the feast.
Ang Pao envelopes
Praying Day falls on New Year’s Eve when people pray to the gods and ancestor spirits. Families have sumptuous dinners at home. Adults give pocket money to children in red envelopes called ang-pao as a gift.
New Year’s Day is the rest day. Some people stay home and do nothing. Many go out to visit extended families and relatives. People are dressed in colorful clothes. Women usually wear qi pao. They give each other oranges, believed to bring luck, and wish a happy and prosperous year to come. To maximize their fortune for the year, they avoid arguments, and conversations about illness or death.
Where to Observe Chinese New Year in Bangkok
Leng Noei Yi or Mangkon Kamalawat Temple
The best place to observe the celebration is definitely Chinatown, known as Yaowarat in Thai. Celebrations take place day and night! A few days prior to New Year, you will see crowd gathering at at temples and shrine to make merit, praying to Buddha images and statues of Chinese deities. Leng Noei Yi or Mangkon Kamalawat Temple in particular is a very popular shrine or neighborhood residents and visitors. Chinese hot meals and food with auspicious names are sold at multitude of street stalls set up on the main road which is closed off from vehicles and becomes a walking street.
At day and night, there are cultural shows on stages. Beautiful parades of dragon and lion dancers march up and down the road. Fireworks decorate the night sky. Noe that firecrackers are used as a part of loud and boisterous celebrations. Any way, they are generally safe.
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