The beginning of Chinese New Year varies significantly from year to year. It starts on the date of the new moon between January 21st and February 20th. In 2017, Chinese New Year began on January 28th, which marked the start of the 4714th year. 2018’s version is due to begin on February 16th.
Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world, in any country with a significant Chinese population. With at least 14% of the population being Chinese or of Chinese descent, Thailand definitely falls into that category.
It might not be an official public holiday in Thailand, but that doesn’t stop people from celebrating! As they do with many celebrations, even if they’re not traditionally Thai, the locals love getting involved in the festivities. Simply walk around any large town or city and you’ll see ‘Happy Chinese New Year!’ banners pinned to the fronts of shops and restaurants. It’s the first major festival of the year, which might explain why the Thais get extra-excited about it!
Each year, Chinese New Year is one of the most colourful and loudest festival on the calendar. There are parades with giant, handcrafted dragons, fire-crackers being let off, and dancers flying around. 99% of things you see in a Chinese New Year parade will, of course, be red.
Chinese and Thai-Chinese people like to celebrate with banquets at home, and even if you can’t obtain a local invite, there’s still plenty of delicious food to be found at restaurants and on the street at food stalls.
The old story goes that on Chinese New Year’s Eve, a monster called Nian would descend each year and terrorize a town, gobbling up its inhabitants. The townspeople finally turned back the beast by using firecrackers, wearing red clothing, and covering their homes in red decorations. That’s why all these traditions are still followed today.
Origin story aside, Chinese New Year is an occasion for people to pay respects to both their ancestors, beliefs and their heritage. In fact, the reason behind having the New Year banquet is to unite the current family with their descendants.
Bangkok is undoubtedly the best place in Thailand to celebrate Chinese New Year. Bangkok is also home to an extensive Chinatown, situated just to the south-east of the Old City. Chinatown is really worth visiting at any time of year – you’ll struggle to get a better taste of China outside of the country itself – but it’s especially vibrant and exciting during the celebrations.
There’s always a massive parade in Bangkok’s Chinatown, and there are plenty of temples where you can see people paying their respects to the gods. Of course, there are also a basically unlimited number of places where you can get some delicious and authentic Chinese food. If you want to visit a Chinese/Buddhist temple, you should head over to Wat Leng Noei Yi on Charoen Krung Street in Chinatown and experience the Chinese fortune sticks.
If you can’t make it there, you should still be able to find somewhere near you to join in the fun. Bangkok aside, celebrations are also held in cities like Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Phuket.