If you are born in 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 or 2004, then congratulations, it is your year! In Chinese New Year traditions, celebrated on the 8th of February, 2016 marks the Year of the Monkey. Chinese New Year is a time for big festivities, and many destinations around the world mark the event with vibrant celebrations.
However did you know that the 8th of February 2016 is also Vietnamese New Year? Known as ‘Tết’, it is the most important festival of Vietnamese culture and celebrates the season of spring based from the Lunar Calendar just like Chinese New Year. Many Asian countries celebrate their New Year based on the lunar dates which occur in late January and February. It is a time of coming together as a family, eating specially prepared meals and blessing the house. Ho Chi Minh City becomes an immersive event as the streets get packed full of people. Be warned that while the festival is bursting with colour and music, getting around is near impossible and many transport links stop and shops close down.
Thailand celebrates their New Year with a splash. Known as Songkran, this annual celebration is held in April and is based on the Buddhist and Hindu solar calendar. It is customary to pour water on the Buddha statues to symbolise washing away ones sins as well as offering food to the monks and visiting temples. The celebration is also famously known for the iconic water festival where water fights are held on major streets. Tourists and locals alike get involved.
Similarly Myanmar’s festivities include a water festival marking the start of the New Year. Falling in April, Thingyan Festival lasts up to five days with processions, water fights and blessings. Local women dress up adorning themselves in flower blooms, including the fragrant padauk flower which only blooms one day a year during Thingyan Festival.
Losar, the Tibetan word for New Year is a crucial festival in Nepal and Tibet. Like the South East Asian festivals, it too follows the Lunar calendar and is celebrated in late January and early February. It is an incredible three day festival devoted to Buddhism featuring traditions and speeches led by the Dalai Lama. If you head to Kathmandu in this period the streets are awash with colour and music and a large crowd will gather to watch Buddhist monks begin a procession around Bodhanath as the Dalai Lama is broadcasted over loud speaker. Watch out for tsampa, the flour thrown into the sky as a sign of good luck!
Perhaps one of the most famous Asian festivals is the Holi Festival of colours found in India, Nepal and other destinations with Hindu population. Falling in March, the night before the event people will gather around a bonfire where they will sing and dance. The next day is the vibrant festivities that Holi is famous for. It is a celebration of colour where dry powder, paint and coloured water is thrown on open streets, parks and outside temples. Marking the arrival of Spring and signifying thanksgiving it’s a joyous fair which is found celebrated all over the world.
Japan is always bursting with beauty, however from March to early May sakura flowers bloom across the country. Hanami, translated as flower viewing, is the traditional festival for the Japanese to enjoy the beauty of the cherry sakura flowers. The blossom forecast is announced each year, with each Japenanese destination varying slightly in dates. The forecaster watches carefully as the blossoms only last for a week or so. The Japanese celebrate having outdoor gatherings both during the day and night, beneath the blossom trees. In many places lanterns are hung from the trees as people feast and drink whilst soaking up the natural beauty.
|Chinese New Year||Monday 8th February||Saturday 28th January|
|Vietnamese New Year||Monday 8th February||Saturday 28th January|
|Songkran||13th April 2016||13th April 2017|
|Thingyan||17th April 2016||17th April 2017|
|Losar||Monday 8th February||Saturday 28th January|
|Holi Festival||Wednesday 23rd March||Monday 13 March|
|Hanami||March-April (destination dependent)||March-April (destination dependent)|
About the Author: Rosanna is on the Marketing team at Tucan Travel. She has travelled independently and on group tours through Colombia, South East Asia, and Europe. You can find her on Twitter here