Events  New Year celebrations in South-East Asia
12/04/201605:00 TV5MONDE


Mid-April is that time of the year when Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are celebrating New Year. This date coincides with the end of the planting season and a quiet time for farmers who have worked hard all year long to plant and harvest rice.
Another similarity among all these countries is that New Year celebrations are a time of cleansing and starting afresh and people traditionally use water to splash or bath others around. This is why these celebrations are usually called the Water Festivals.

What does it look like in each country? 

1) Thailand


Perhaps the most famous celebration is the one in Thailand, known as the Songkran Festival
Following the idea of purification before to start the New Year, Thai people believe that splashing water on each other will wash away bad luck, bad thoughts and bad actions. The funny thing is that it is not only done on local people but also on foreigners and tourists. This time of the year also coincides with the hottest time of the year in Thailand, so being splashed by waster is more than welcome even though it can be done through water guns! Likewise in India or other southeasian countries, people can also get covered with chalk or powder color. 


It's a three-days festival: Wan Sungkharn Long Day, Wan Nao Day (house-cleaning, visit to temples) and Wan Payawan, which is the first day of the New Year when the water splashing show starts…

2) Cambodia


In Cambodia, the Festival is called Chaul Chnam Thmey in Khmer, meaning: Enter the New Year. It's a three-days festival: 
Maha Songkran: on which people clean their house,
Vanabot: a day to remember one’s elders, to help others and exchange gifts
and then Lean Saka on the 3rd day (which is actually the first day of the New Year): people wash and clean statues of Lord Buddha with water, to ensure that Cambodia will receive water in the coming year. 


In Phnom Penh, the best place to be to be part of the festivities is the Wat Phnom, where Khmer people play traditional games, watch performances and throw talcum powder and water to each other.

3) Laos

In Laos, it is the Bun Pi Mai and it last for at least 3 days:
Maha Songkran, corresponds to the last day of the New Year. A day of deep cleaning and preparation for scented water and flowers for the coming events. 
The “Day-of-no-Day” is the second day, which is neither part of the last year, neither part of the coming new year. 
Day 3 is called Wan Thaloeng Sok, the first day of the New Year. 


A bit similar to Thailand Songkran but more gentle, Lao traditionally bath Buddha icons in the temples with scented water and flowers. Also, Lao people respectfully pour water on elders and monks wishing ‘Sok Dii Pimai’ (Happy new Year) and asking for their blessing for the year ahead. 
In these countries, the date of the New Year in 2016 is April 13th. 
This date is different in Myanmar, where the Burmese New Year takes place on April 17th 2016, at the end of the Water Festival.

4) Myanmar


The name of the celebration is Thingyan and lasts for minimum 4 or 5 days as it is the most important festivity in Myanmar. It is the same process of purification as people splash water to each other to wash away their sins accumulated during the passed year, go to temples and pay respects by bathing monks and elders.
The word Thingyan means “change”. Myanma people love to prepare special food on this occasion: Thingyan rice which is seasoned with local special spices, and Mont Lone Yay Paw, which is a Myanma dessert made of boiled rice balls dough with a palm-sugar center. 


Other countries are also celebrating New Year at this time, among which Sri Lanka with rituals that blend Buddhist, Hindu and long-held local traditions, but also Bali, Malaysia, Vietnam... We wish all the people there a very  happy celebration.
Whatever it is called and wherever it is, theses festivals are great fun and mean happy times for local people and for everyone joining in. One must never forget that whatever is splashed on them is for good karma for the New Year. 
So Happy New Year to you all!

Pictures: Shutterstock
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