The New Year Festival in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand are the same border countries, they have their own customs, ways of life, and traditions. But they have at least one thing in common: the New Year festival is celebrated for three days from April 13/14 to April 15/16 after the harvest and before the start of the rainy season. During this period, the inhabitants of the 4 countries dance, sing and have fun everywhere in the streets. And if you take part in the festivities, be prepared because it will be… wet! Everywhere we splash water and even as tourists you will not be spared. During this festive period, you may leave your hotel dry but you will definitely come home soaked!
Why does water have a central role in New Year’s traditions?
Water is used symbolically as a purifier. People wash their bodies and homes to get rid of accumulated bad luck and thus make the new year a new beginning. The Buddha statues are meticulously cleaned by the monks. Parents and grandparents are washed by their children and grandchildren. Nevertheless, each country has its own way of celebrating the New Year. Here is a brief introduction to how to celebrate the New Year in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar.
At the start of the Choul Chnam Thmey (New Year) festivities, Cambodians make fruit offerings to ancestors or household spirits and go to temples to light candles. The inhabitants also take advantage of this holiday to wash their houses with floral water.
On the second day, it is traditional to do a charitable deed and visit loved ones. On the third day, the Buddha statues are cleaned by monks and volunteers. As for the children, they cleanse their parents and grandparents of their misdeeds and misfortunes. The nonsense perpetrated by the children during the year is forgotten. Young Cambodians can then start the New Year on a new footing.
The New Year festival in Laos is called Pi Mai. The celebrations begin on the last day of the past year. On that day, in addition to purification rituals, Laotians go to the temple. According to beliefs, the more temples you visit, the more luck will smile on you in the new year. It is also traditional for children to apologize to parents and grandparents for any worries they may have caused during the year. This ritual is called Baasii.
The Thais call the New Year, Songkran. The festival is widely celebrated on the streets of Bangkok. Every year, more and more tourists come to discover this fascinating spectacle. Night and day, we sprinkle ourselves with water and make up our faces with talc. On D-Day, fruits and cooked dishes are brought to the Wats as an offering. We also take advantage of this day to visit all the members of his family.
Myanmar celebrates the new year, the Thingyan, in 4 or 5 days of the new year. Large parades are organized in the cities and the joy of the new year is shared by dancing and enjoying the music played during the parade. In all these countries, the festivities attract new tourists every year. Parties are organized in the streets and the music is turned up to maximum volume. Tourists visiting South East Asia during this period should expect to be wet and to walk late into the night in crowded streets full of life.