The Chinese New Year

The Chinese Spring Festival is celebrated from 10 February to 24 February.

Chinese Red Lanterns
Chinese Red Lanterns

10 February is the start of The Year of the Dragon for the Chinese in Thailand. A little over 40% of the Thai population of 70 million can claim some Chinese ancestry, 15% are ethnic Chinese with That citizenship. No wonder then that there is a high proportion of Thai-Chinese in government and big business. Youngsters today with this Chinese background tend to think of themselves as Thai whereas a few decades ago it would have been quite normal to describe oneself openly as Thai-Chinese.

Dragon dancers parading in the street.
Dragon dancers parading in the street.

The streets in the Chinese quarters of the major cities are alive with dragon dancers (to scare away the mythical beast called Nien) and acrobats. Shops do a roaring trade, and everyone is happy and having fun. It is noisy, crowded, and colourful. Fireworks ward off the evil spirits.

The celebrations are a time to re-unite with family from other parts of Thailand and to pay respects to one’s ancestors. Multi-course banquets with the whole family seemingly go on for hours. The children are given money in red envelopes — the adults, by tradition, an orange.

A Chinese child reeiving her red envelope, lai see or hong bao
A Chinese child receiving her red envelope, lai see or hong bao.
Preparing the red envelope for the child, and oranges for the adults.

The Thai-Chinese are more superstitious by far than the Thai. Sweep your house clean before the Chinese Spring Festival begins. And don’t clean during the festival because you may then inadvertently sweep away the good luck that the festival brings. Only after 5 days should you remove any dust and dirt.

You should not wash your hair on New Year’s Day and shun the idea of using scissors, sharp knives, or nail-clippers. Many hairdressers will be closed during the festivities anyway.

Do not break pottery or glass. If you do so, by accident, wrap the pieces up in red paper and throw away after the New Year.

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