While most people think that Chinese New Year is the New Year festival of every Southeast Asia countries that is not true. In fact, Southeast Asia countries have two New Year festivals: One is Chinese New year festival (or Lunar New Year), and the second is Buddhist New Year.
The reason is that of the different calendars. Some countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and in Sri Lanka and Chinese populations of Malaysia and Singapore primarily use the Buddhist calendar which is a set of the lunisolar calendar for religious and official occasions. The calendars share the same lineage but they still have some minor variation such as names of months, numbering, and intercalation schedules.
Other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Singapore use the same lunar calendar as China which is based upon cycles of the Moon’s phases. The details of when months begin to vary from calendar to calendar depend on when the moon changes its shape from new, crescent to full as well as other calculations.
Though most of the world just know about Chinese New Year, Buddhist New Year is no less important and expectant than the other. From Songkran festival of Thailand to Chol Chnam Thmey of Cambodia, here are some festivals that you might not want to miss.
1. Songkran Festival, Thailand
Songkran might be the biggest and most expecting festival of Thai people and visitors. This is called Water Festival because it names as the largest water fight in the world but you probably won’t mind the drenching. Songkran takes place in April – the “hottest” month of the year in Thailand.
The festival originates from a belief of Thai people: Water will wash away bad thought and action of the old year and bring good luck in the new year, so the festival is all about cleaning and fresh starts. People clean their houses and wash the Buddhist statues with flower-scented water and the young folk pays their respect to the elder by respectfully pouring water over their hands. But nowadays, the festival becomes popular worldwide. Locals and travellers rush to the street, spend whole days splashing water on each other. If you’re out and about on Songkran, don’t expect to return to your hotel room dry!
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Songkran might be the most expecting festival of Thai people and visitors (Photo: Pattayaatrader)
It names as the largest water fight in the world so prepare to be drenched
Because many people will travel here to fight
You even have to fight with the elephants too. (Photo: Samuidays)
So find a water gun and start the battle (Photo: ThaIntro)
– The official festival takes part in three days from 13-15th April but it often prolongs as long as 6 days.
– The epicenter of Songkran is in Chiang Mai but you can celebrate it in Bangkok, Phuket as well as other tourist areas.
– You will get wet, very wet so don’t plan to be dry during the holiday unless you limit yourself inside the hotel room.
– Leave your phones and cameras at the hotel or put them in a sealed plastic bag for their best chance of surviving.
– Dancing and drinking are what you will see in the streets during the festival but watch out drunken behavior in public. In 2016, a British man was arrested for taking off his shirt on the holiday.
– Don’t drive a motorbike during Songkran or you might be a target of getting splash. Road accidents are double during the water festival.
– Don’t splash your water to the monks or pregnant women. They are exempt from being wet.
2. Bun Pi Mai Festival, Laos
The New Year in Laos – known as Bun Pi Mai – is almost as splashy as the celebrations over in neighboring Thailand, but getting soaked in Laos is a more gentle process than in Bangkok.
The celebration lasts three days in April – the middle of the hot summer season. During Bun Pi Mai, Lao people clean their house and the Buddha images in the temples. They respectfully pour jasmine-scented water on the elders first, then on friends and others on the streets. Foreigners are not exempt from this treatment, so if you’re in Laos during Bun Pi Mai, do expect to be soaked by passing teenagers, who’ll give you the wet treatment from buckets of water, hoses, or high-pressure water guns.
The faithful will also build sand stupas and decorate these with flowers, flats, and string. At temples, the monk will provide the water as well as bless peace and longevity for the devotees, and they will tie up devotees’ wrists with string. Birds, fishes, snacks are released as good deeds in the New Year.
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The New Year in Laos – known as Bun Pi Mai – celebrates in 3 days. Lao people clean their houses and Buddha statues by scented-water….. (Photo: Tourismlao)
… provide food to the monks…
… and tie up devotees’ wrists with string for blessing (Photo: Laodaytours)
During Pun Pi Mai, there are many activities including the annual Nangsoukhane beauty pageant, night parties with traditional music and dance and parades.
– The festival takes part in three days from 14-16th April in Buddhist calendar.
– While Bun Pi Mai is celebrated throughout Laos, you should be at Vientiane or Luang Prabang to see the holiday at its most intense. In Luang Prabang, the celebrations can be a full seven days, celebrated in different places around the city with many activities including the annual Nangsoukhane beauty pageant, night parties with traditional music and dance and parades. Play important roles in the parades are 3 figures: 2 red-faced toothy heads which are called Grandfather and Grandmother Nyeu – guardians of the environment and a lion head called Sing Kaew Sing Kham – an ancient King in the legend of Laos.
– Bun Pi Mai is the peak tourist season in Laos, contact us at least two months in advance if you want to explore this beautiful country and be fun at this exciting festival.
– Choose your targets wisely. There are certain people you should consider before splash water: monks, elders and well-dressed women who are on her way to an important New Year event!
3. Chol Chnam Thmey Festival, Cambodia
Chol Chnam Thmey means “Step to New Year” marks the end of the harvest season in Cambodia, a time of leisure for farmers who have worked hard all year in their fields. At the temples, entrances are decorated with colorful flowers and coconut leaves. Khmer offer food to their departed relatives at the pagodas and play traditional games in the temple courtyard.
The Cambodian New Year takes part in three days, each with their own name ritual meaning.
On the first day, “Moha Songkran”, Khmer cleans the house, prepares food, deserts and everyday-used items offering to the monks in the pagodas. In Cambodia belief, the things they donate through the monks will reach to the hands of their dead ancestors in the hell, the more they donate, the better the dead ancestors will wish for them, and so they are called “the grateful”. To wish for luck, the Khmers use holy water to clean their faces in the morning, wash their bodies in the noon and clean their feet before they go to bed. The conservative community of Khmer people permits free mingling between males and females on this day only, so if you are looking for your future partner, hurry up to book a trip to Cambodia in their New Year festival.
Day two – “Wanabat” – is a day for showing respect to the elders, both living and departed. Khmer people will donate to the poor and the homeless people on this day. In the temples, family members gathering to honor their ancestors and build a sand hillock on the temple ground. They make a big hill of sand in the center which represents Culamuni Cetiya, the stupa at Tavatimsa where the Buddha’s hair and diadem are buried. The big hill is surrounded by 4 small ones which represent 4 stupas of Buddha’s favorite disciples: Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda, and Maha Kassapa. The sand hillock is said to bring rain for crops and bless for people.
“Thgnai Loeung Sak” is the last day of the festival which is also the first day of New Year. Devotees bathe Buddha statues in a ceremony called “Pithi Srang Preah” as a symbol of washing bad action away. They also wash the elders and monks with perfumed water to ask them for forgiveness for any mistake made during the old year and obtain from them best wishes on longevity, happiness, and prosperity in life.
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Chol Chnam Thmey means “Step to New Year” marks the end of the harvest season in Cambodia, a time of leisure for farmers who have worked hard all year in their fields (Photo: Indochinavoyages)
They build a sand-hillock in the temple. A big hill of sand is in the center which represents Culamuni Cetiya, the stupa at Tavatimsa where the Buddha’s hair and diadem are buried, 4 small ones which represent 4 stupas of Buddha’s favorite disciples (Photo: Tripsavvy)
People offer rice at a local monastery in Kompong Cham, Cambodia, during Virak Wanabat, the second day of Khmer New Year (Photo: Guidodingermans)
They prepare perfumed water to wash the elders….(Photo: Theadventureofcanonandi)
…. and the monks (Photo: Theadventureofcanonandi)
– The festival takes part in three days from 13-15th April.
– A Royal parade will take place in the capital Phnom Penh on “Thgnai Loeung Sak” which include activities as elephant races, horse races, and boxing matches.
– In Phnom Penh, the best place to be during the New Year is Wat Phnom temple where a lot of traditional games, performances happen. You should expect to get some throw of talcum powder from local people and don’t hesitate to throw it back. That should be fun.
– If you travel to Siem Reap during this time, go to Angkor Archaeological Park to celebrate the New Year. Cambodian coincides Chol Chnam Thmey with the Angkor Sankranti celebrations. Many activities are expected to take place in 3 days such as Khmer cultural art exhibition including games, dancing, and martial arts around the Angkor temples, and night street parties down the infamous Pub Street district.
4. Thingyan Festival, Myanmar
Thingyan – one of Myanmar’s most anticipated festivals – takes place over a period of four or five days in April. Same with Buddhist New Year festival in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, water throwing is a major part of the holidays, with the streets being patrolled by flatbed trucks bearing revellers throwing water on passersby. The holiday derives from a traditional Hindu belief that Thagyamin (Indra) visits the Earth on this day (Indra is a Vedic deity in Hinduism, a guardian deity in Buddhism, and the king of the highest heaven called Saudharmakalpa in Jainism). To please Thagyamin, Myanmar people will provide food and money to the poor and monks and the young bathes their elders as a sign of respect.
Water splashing is considered the most interesting activity of the festival. Burmese people believe that it will wash away the impurity which had accumulated over the past year and greet New year with a purity of mind and body. Since the old time of Bagan, the festival of water has been very popular among the people, the nobles, and the rulers. In the past, the Burmese used a foliage of apple leaves, dip them into the scented water in a bowl or a silver bowl and then sprinkle on the other. The leaves have represented the symbol of good luck which will bring blessings to both people are sprinkled and the sprinklers. But nowadays, Myanmar celebrates the festival of Thingyan with plenty of water, they use faucets or bucket to toss water on passerby making a lot of laugh and fun because everybody joins the battle with enthusiasm. When you get wet, it means your sadness is no longer exists, your soul is cleaned of the past year’s evils and imperfections, save room for a new year with happiness, luck and the purity in mind.
Water splashing is considered the most interesting activity of the Thingyan festival. Burmese people believe water will wash away the impurity of the old year to greet a new year with a purity of mind and body (Photo: Yetun)
Myanmar celebrates the festival of Thingyan with plenty of water, they use faucets or bucket to toss water on passerby making a lot of laugh and fun
There are many other activities during Thingyan festival to keep you exciting all day.
– The festival takes part in three days from 14-16th April.
– For the most exciting, you should visit the Bagan or Yangon of Myanmar.
– On the New Year’s Day, people make food donations called satuditha at various places. They will provide free food to those participating in the new year’s celebrations.
New Year is all about having fun. So if you are ready to have fun and start a New Year with a lot of joy and happiness, book our most wanted tours to start a water fight. Don’t forget to bring a big water-gun and ready to get wet.