Chinese New Year in Bangkok
Chinese New Year brings one of the most exhilarating celebrations to Yaowaraj, which is officially the Chinatown of Bangkok. The entire length of street comes to life with crowds of worshippers, exploding firecrackers, dragon dancers, and families of Chinese descent who gather to partake in the street fanfare as well as enjoy sumptuous Chinese banquets. In other parts of Bangkok, Chinese restaurants and shopping malls roll out special Chinese New Year promotions, which range from discounts on goods and services to free feng-shui advice for their customers. In Thailand, the event usually takes place around January or February of every year. The exact dates are calculated from the Chinese Lunar Calendar.
New Year Traditions
Although not a public holiday in Thailand, members of Bangkok Chinese communities usually take at least one day off from work and engage themselves in various New Year activities. New Year’s Eve is the time to pray to the gods and pay respect to the ancestors. This is when the whole family enjoys a sumptuous Chinese banquet together at home. On the night of New Year’s Eve, adults will hand red envelopes called ‘ang-pao’, with pocket money inside, to their children as a New Year gift. On New Year’s Day, it’s time to rest and do absolutely nothing. Most people start visiting their extended families and relatives in order to exchange a few oranges as a way to wish them a Happy New Year.
Street Sights and Sounds
Legend has it that on the night of New Year’s Eve, a mythical beast called ‘Nien’ would come to town and ravage people’s homes. To prevent this, the town’s residents put food on their doors, set off firecrackers and, as they discovered later, put on red attires as well as decorate their homes with all things red.
Since then, Chinese New Year has become one of the most exhilarating times filled with dynamic sights and sounds. Shop and home owners of Chinese descent decorate their places with red paper lantern, Chinese calligraphy banners, and posters. The whole Bangkok Chinatown turns red literally from beginning to end. Street fanfares and cultural festivities, such as the dragon parades, acrobatic dances and firecrackers, are the highlights not to be missed.
Where to Enjoy Chinese New Year?
Plan to spend a full day exploring Chinatown as well as watch the dragon parade. On New Year’s Day, visit Lengnoeiyi Temple on Charoen Krung Street and pay respect to the gods and goddesses. While here, don’t forget to try your hand at ‘siem-see’ or Chinese fortune sticks, which is a way to ask the gods for guidance on how to solve a personal problem or for advice in general. So, do have a question in mind before you start shaking the bamboo container!
Must-do Cultural Activities
Once celebrated amongst Bangkok’s Chinese communities, today Chinese New Year is a festival for all. Get into the spirit of Chinese New Year by wearing a red shirt, blouse or dress. If you are prepared to go all the way to observe the event, try practicing a few ‘don’ts’ on New Year’s Day.
Among these ‘don’ts’ are: don’t use sharp objects (including knives, scissors, nail cutters); don’t argue with or curse at anyone; don’t clean your house, cook or do any work (including laundry and doing dishes); don’t slaughter animals or speak of sickness and the dead; don’t wash your hair; and don’t break or trip on any object. Should you fail to observe one of these ‘don’ts’, your fortunes in the coming year, so they say, may instead turn into misfortunes.
When: First Day of the Chinese Lunar Calendar
Where: Yaowaraj (Chinatown)