Last week I promised I’d tell you a bit more about the New Year celebrations in Thailand, which indeed take place three times a year.
Since 1940, January 1st is the official start of the year in Thailand. The official calendar is the Gregorian calendar, except that the year number follows the Buddhist calendar. The current year is 2549. Celebrations take place on December 31st with partying, countdown and fireworks at midnight. Not much different from many Western countries.
The next New Year is the Chinese New Year, which is widely celebrated in Thailand. Many Thais are ethnic Chinese. 29 January 2006 is the start of the Year of the Dog. Since the start of the year is determined by the moon’s position, Chinese New Year is on a different day in the Western calendar each year, somewhere in late January or early February.
April 13th is the Buddhist New Year, and was Thailand’s official start of the year until 1940. It is still an official holiday, locally known as “Songkran”. The official holiday period is three days, but in some parts of the country celebrations can last a whole week. The contemporary way to celebrate Songkran is to throw water at passers-by. If you venture out on the streets anywhere in Thailand, expect to get wet. April is the last month of the dry season, and Thailand’s hottest month. The custom stems from a religious New Year ceremony in which youngsters respectfully pour water over the hands of elders.