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Chinese New Year

What Is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year In Bangkok Thailand Event schedule - Dragon Parade Dancers Yaowarat road
Chinese New Year In Bangkok Thailand Event schedule - Good Luck Man Yaowarat road

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is based on the ancient Chinese Lunar Calendar and is equivalent to today’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.  The Chinese Lunar Calendar was started in 2698 BC, over 4,000 years before today’s modern Georgian Calendar was developed in the 1500’s.  To put how old Chinese New Year is into perspective, the Chinese Lunar based calendar was being used 2,000 years before the Romans even added the month of January around 700 BC.  Each year of the Chinese Calendar is also tied to an animal like Year of the Horse or Year of the Monkey.  It’s said that the animal years started around 500 BC when Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year.  12 of the animals showed up and Buddha named a year after each one.  Since then the animal years have rotated each year in 12-year cycles and it’s said you gain difference fortunes depending on which year or sign you are born under.

The festival of Chinese New Year itself has 3 different purposes: to celebrate the year you are leaving, to gather with family, and to ring in good luck for the upcoming year.  While people outside of China mainly see the celebration side, it is the family gathering that is may be the most impressive.  Typically all generations in a family travel to be together for a number of days over Chinese New Year which in China is somewhat of a great migration.  Transit becomes utterly bogged down as 100’s of millions of people are all on the move at the same time.  In 2015 there was even a 50 lane mega-highway that had a multi-day traffic jam from the holiday migration.  Even in Bangkok, the influx of people can be felt far and wide during Chinese New Year.

The festive celebration to ring in the New Year is our favorite part of the holiday as loud drums, red shirts, dragons, and more are used to scare away evil spirits.  Over a 3 day period homes are also cleaned to make way for a good look and superstitious residents give offerings for spiritual good favor.  These offerings range from burning bank notes, giving red envelopes to their family members with even dollar amounts inside, praying to deities, burning incense, lighting candles, and much more.  The color red is everywhere and symbolizes fire used, along with drums and firecrackers, to ward off the demon serpent Nian that was said to ravage villages in ancient Chinese folklore.

While the events in Bangkok are almost entirely centered over the 3 day New Year period itself, smaller events run through 15th day of the new Lunar Year called the Lantern Festival.  Using the Lunar Moon Cycles, the Chinese New Year ends up falling between the end of January and middle of February every year.   The main 3 days of the Festival include Spring Festival Eve, then the Spring Festival or New Year, followed by New Year’s Day.  So when you see the date for Chinese New Year it is actually the last day of the Lunar Year, like celebrating New Year’s Eve in other countries.  The date of Chinese New Year varies year to year because it is lunar based, but it always falls on the new moon between  January 21st and February 20th.