Giving alms to the monks on New Year’s Day
When talking about celebrating the “new year” in Thailand, you need to first ask, “Which one?”. Last night, much the same as the rest of the world, the Thai people celebrated the new year by attending countdown events around the country. At the stroke of midnight, there were fireworks and a lot of cheering. However, Thai people have only been celebrating the 1st of January as the first day of the year for less than 70 years. Before that, the Songkran Festival, usually in March or April until the date was fixed, was the traditional start of the year. However, Thai people will still celebrate the Songkran New Year in a much bigger way. The third “new year” celebration in Thailand is the Chinese New Year which usually comes at the end of January or in February. Many Thais have Chinese blood so they like to celebrate this festival too.
In a Chinese Shrine on New Year’s Day
In the lead up to 31st of December, Thai people often exchange gifts and cards. Quite a few people will attend countdown events or just watch them on television. As the new year is often over a long weekend, many people will go up-country for a short holiday. Popular destinations are places like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces that have cool weather at this time of the year. However, not everyone will spend the new year partying or drinking. I know a number of Thai people who said that they will attend meditation retreats over the new year. Others will visit their local temple to make merit either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. I know my local temple was advertising special events for these two days.
At a Temple on New Year’s Day
The pictures that you can see at the top were taken early this morning in Paknam City, Samut Prakan. Like elsewhere in the country, the local people came out in their thousands to take part in chanting sessions and to give food and other essentials to the monks. People with Chinese ancestors went to local Chinese shrines. Others went to their local temple, as in the picture above, to receive blessings from the monks. They made merit by giving food, releasing birds or fish and also listening to sermons by the monks. People will also wear new clothes as they believe that all of this will bring them good luck in the new year. So, as you can see, although Thai people love to have fun, the new year holiday is not all about getting drunk.
Tragically, 60 people died in a nightclub in Bangkok last night where revellers were celebrating the new year. A fire broke out shortly after midnight and many people were killed in the stampede for the exit. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of people who died in the early hours of this morning. Also with the many people who are now in hospital. Both Thais and foreign tourists were affected by this tragic fire. We have posted more news about this together with pictures and videos at our ThailandQA Forums.