This year, Sunday January 22nd 2023 marks the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit (also known as Lunar New Year or Spring festival), which is celebrated throughout Bangkok. Finally the official Chinese New Year celebrations can take place and if you head over to China Town you can see the streets decorated beautifully with road side stalls selling lanterns, new clothes and auspicious trinkets in all shapes and sizes.
What is Chinese New Year
The New Year celebration is centred around removing the bad and the old, and welcoming the new and the good. It’s a time to worship ancestors, exorcise evil spirits and pray for good harvest. Today it’s celebrated also by Chinese communities outside the country and Thailand has the largest Chinese community outside of China so Thailand take their celebrations seriously!
The New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar and represented by 12 animals and 5 elements in a 12 year cycle. A specific animal is assigned each year and one of the elements of metal, water, wood, fire and earth. People take Chinese astrology very seriously and more so at this time of year when astrologers set up stalls around the streets of China Town to predict your fortune for the new year.
The celebrations normally run from Chinese New Years Eve to the 15th day and 3 important activities feature in the build up to the big event. Shopping day, before New Year’s Eve when people shop for gifts, food and offerings. Praying day, when prayers and offerings are made to their golds and ancestors for wealth and prosperity in the New Year. Adults will give small red pockets called Ang-Pao as gifts of money to their children or employees wishing good wealth and health. The act of giving someone an Ang-Pao is a blessing but for the kids it’s all about the money! Be sure never to let your kids open an Ang-Pao right there and then though; it’s seen as very rude and disrespectful.
Then comes, New Year’s Day or is commonly known as Going out day when families come together to celebrate and enjoy the festivities, with food being a heavily featured part of this day! People will dress in colourful clothes mainly red and gold which are seen as the colours of good fortune and friends and family will exchange oranges which are believed to bring luck and prosperity.
Where To Participate
Many of the hotels and Chinese restaurants will have Chinese New Year feasts and banquets available and large shopping malls are once again competing for the most elaborate decorations, Bangkok really takes this matter seriously. Overnight malls are transformed into a sea of red lanterns and paper dragons and many offer workshops centered around family time and Chinese New Year activities where kids can make their own Chinese New Year animals and try their hand at Chinese calligraphy.
Chinatown in Bangkok
But if you really want to experience Chinese New Year there is only one place to go……..China Town.
Bangkok hosts some of the best Chinese New Year celebrations outside of China and Chinatown is THE place to be to soak up the atmosphere and really get a feel for the vibrancy and festivities of Chinese New Year. From noon to midnight, the free celebrations span the main stretch of Yaowarat Road, from the Royal Jubilee Gate, onto the connecting streets. Chinese food will be sold at numerous street stalls set on the main road through China Town and traffic is closed so that the entire length becomes a walking street. Be sure to find out which cultural shows are on offer and what time the infamous Lion dance goes through the streets as this is one of the highlights of the day. Expect noise and crowds well into the evening as the fireworks light up the sky all along the riverfront.
More recently an old converted warehouse space across the river from China Town has been converted into a community area. Lhong 1919 features Chinese restaurants, a museum, photography spots, art and craft shops and has a learning center about Thai-Chinese relations. It has a great atmosphere on the riverside and can be a quieter option for kids to see the celebrations away from the huge crowds. There is a small shuttle boat that takes you back and forth from Lhong 1919 to the back streets of China Town.
Wherever you may go to celebrate Chinese New year we wish you a very happy Gong Xi Fa Cai
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Editors Note: For families with babies and small children: Fire crackers are often used to announce the arrival of the lion dance, whilst this is safe it can be quite boisterous and alarming.
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