Updated: Jan 19
Chinese New Year (วันตรุษจีน), also commonly known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. It is a holiday that marks the beginning of the new lunar year and is celebrated by millions of people of Chinese descent worldwide. 2023 is aligned with the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ which is 4th in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac.
During this period, all things are decorated in red, an auspicious color that symbolizes good fortune and encourages prosperity. Families and friends will get together for festivities and celebrations including parties, traditional ceremonies, feasting, and the exchanging of gifts and red envelopes.
From a commercial perspective, shops and malls offer big CNY promotions and discounts as people venture out to buy fresh new clothes, gifts, and food for the offerings and feast. So be sure to watch out for some good sales!
When is Chinese New Year 2023
The Chinese New Year varies every year depending on the Lunar Calendar – generally around 21-51 days behind the Gregorian Calendar. The lunar calendar is calculated from the moon and sun cycles with Chinese New Year typically being somewhere between January and February. This year, it falls on Sunday the 22nd of January.
Year of the Rabbit
As mentioned earlier, 2023 marks the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ which is considered to be the luckiest of all 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. The rabbit is seen as a quick-minded and witty animal that also symbolizes elegance, beauty, and mercy. The 12 animals representing the Chinese zodiac are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Find out your zodiac animal from the year you were born according to the chart below.
How Long do the Celebrations Last?
Celebrations of the Chinese New Year traditionally last for 2 weeks or around 15 days; starting from Chinese New Year’s Eve (21 January) to the Lantern Festival on the 5th of February. Although New Year's Day is on 22 January, the city of Phuket holds its annual Chinese New Year Festival a couple of days later (27 Jan).
In Thailand, people of Chinese descent commonly observe 3 significant days from 20-22 January. Let's take a look into the importance of each day throughout this period;
20 January: 1 Day Before New Year's Eve - Spending Day (วันจ่าย)
On this day, preparations for New Year's Day and its festivities begin. People will often head out to markets and malls to buy food, fruits, and offerings to the gods before shops close for the long holiday.
💡 Note: Days leading up to Chinese New Year, families often clean up their households and get rid of old stuff. This includes clothing and sometimes furniture as they seek to bring in new items for the new year.
21 January: New Year’s Eve - Day of Worship (วันไหว้)
One of the most important aspects of Chinese New Year is the reunion of families – especially on New Year’s Eve. This is when ceremonies of paying respects with offerings to the gods and ancestors begin -- followed by a big feast with the family.
In the early hours of the morning, people offer 3-5 types of meat (usually pork, duck, chicken, fish, and shrimp) along with tea and whiskey as a meal to spirits of the house. Other offerings include silver and gold papers as a symbol of bringing wealth and prosperity into the household.
During the late morning (before noon), comes the ritual of paying respects to your ancestors and family members who have passed. The offering usually consists of your ancestor's favorite dishes followed by the burning of paper money and clothes as a donation. The whole family will then feast together as a symbol of unity merging the deceased with the living.
After the feast, family members will exchange red envelopes of money (Ang Pao) for children, unmarried family members, and close relatives. The red envelopes symbolize good fortune and prosperity, while the money given is for spending on new year's day.
After all the traditions are fulfilled, firecrackers are lit up to fend off bad omens. At the stroke of midnight, many households will leave every door and window in the house open to allow the old year to depart in order to welcome good luck.
22 January: New Year’s Day - Day of Celebrations (วันเที่ยว)
New Year’s Day represents a new beginning. Family members often start the new year by presenting oranges wrapped in cloth to their elders and paying respects in exchange for good blessings. This day is considered an auspicious occasion where worshippers would wear new fresh clothes and go out of the house for a nice meal or holiday. In turn, you should not commit any sins, refrain from using bad language, avoid collecting debts, and evade any sort of housework.
Chinese New Year in Phuket
Due to the large number of Chinese descendants in Phuket, the island enjoys widespread celebrations and colorful processions. The streets of Phuket are beautifully dressed up in bright red Chinese lanterns and calligraphy banners hanging from shops and houses. Shops and malls offer bargain deals as Phuket’s local Chinese community is looking to spend on New Year’s Day.
Although Chinese New Year is not a national holiday in Thailand, many families travel to spend time together to pay respects to their ancestors as well as enjoy the festivities. You’ll notice people wearing red or bright attire as it is considered good luck and expect to hear loud firecrackers being set off all over town. Chinese shrines in the old town get busy with merit-makers who come to pray and give offerings for a successful year ahead.
Places to Visit for Chinese New Year in Phuket
Every year, The Tourism Authority of Thailand Phuket office (TAT) and Phuket City combine Chinese New Year celebrations together with the Old Phuket Festival (ย้อนอดีตภูเก็ต). This year, the festivities will last over a 3-day period from 27-29 January, 5 days after Chinese New Year’s Day.
If you’re looking for a good experience of the festival features, head on over to the Golden Dragon Monument next to the TAT Phuket office on Thalang Road. You can expect colorful shows, food stalls, and a parade at this free community event. One not to miss is the Dragon Procession parade and traditional dances as it takes a journey through the streets. This is considered the main highlight of the festival and is often held on the 2nd day of the celebration.
Additional features of the event include an educational forum on the history of Phuket’s unique architecture as well as the Conservation of Phuket Old Town. Below is a list of alternative places to go witness Chinese New Year celebrations like a local;
Sapan Hin Park - View the beautiful decorations of red lanterns as they flood the shrine.
Phuket Old Town (Around Thalang Road, Dibuk Road, and Phang Nga Road)
Wat Chalong - Although not a Chinese temple, it hosts a large festival during the Chinese New Year.
Phuket Thai Hua Museum - This museum is worth a visit during the festival for those who want to learn more about ancient traditions. It offers insight into Phuket’s Chinese history and culture, dating back to the early days of Chinese migration to the island in the 1800s.
Traditions and Beliefs
During the Chinese New Year period, you should refrain from using bad language and the number ‘4’ due to its close pronunciation to the word ‘death’ in Chinese. Apart from this, many believe that you shouldn’t bring up bad events in the past but instead have a forward and positive outlook for the upcoming year.
Here are some more traditions and beliefs:
If you cry on new year’s day, you’ll have something to be sad about for the whole year. On this day, kids can sometimes get a free pass for mischief to avoid crying from being told off by their parents.
On new year’s day, you should avoid washing your hair as it represents washing away the good luck received from the rituals.
Clothing should be worn in red or bright colors that represent happiness and a bright new beginning. Avoid wearing white and black clothing as these colors represent death and bad luck.
Your mood and actions on that day will reflect either good or bad luck in the coming year. Children, single people, and close relatives will receive a red envelope filled with money to start the new year with good fortune.
Entering someone else’s bedroom on Chinese new year is considered extremely bad luck. When visiting friends, family, or relatives, it is important that they come out to greet you in the living room and are dressed in clean new clothes.
No use of sharp objects such as knives and scissors. The Chinese believe that these sharp objects can cut through your good fortune.
Eating dumplings, oranges, noodles, and rice cakes are considered lucky while tofu and beancurd are considered bad luck.
🧧 Gong Xi Fa Cai! 🧧
Frequently Asked Questions About Chinese New Year
Do people celebrate Chinese New Year in Thailand?
Yes. Chinese New Year is widely celebrated in Thailand due to a significant number of Chinese descendants. It is estimated that around 11-14% of Thailand's population are ethnic Chinese, with a large number in Phuket. Back in the 1800s, the island absorbed a significant number of Hokkien refugees immigrating from Fujian province who were escaping political turmoil and the Chinese famine.
What do Thai people do during Chinese New Year?
Generally speaking, Thais observe 3 significant days during Chinese New Year; Spending Day, Worshipping Day, and New Year's Day. Spending Day (วันจ่าย) is the day before New Year's Eve when worshippers head out to markets and malls to buy food, fruits, and offerings to the gods in preparation for Worshipping Day. Worshipping Day (วันไหว้) falls on New Year's Eve and is when worshippers perform traditional ceremonies and pay respects to their ancestors and the gods with offerings. Spending Day (วันจ่าย) is equivalent to New Year's Day which is a day of celebration. This day is considered an auspicious occasion where worshippers would wear new fresh clothes and go out of the house for a nice meal or holiday.
Where is the best place to experience the Chinese New Year in Phuket?
Due to the large number of Chinese descendants in Phuket, you can witness large crowds among Chinese Shrines located in Phuket Old Town. Some of the main shrines you can visit to witness merit-makers include; Kuan Im Teng Shrine, Jui Tui Shrine, and Samkong Shrine. The city of Phuket itself will hold an annual festival for the Chinese New Year combined with the Old Phuket Festival on 27 - 29 January. The festival will take place at the Golden Dragon Monument next to the TAT Phuket office on Thalang Road. You can expect colorful shows, food stalls, and a Dragon Dance parade at this event.
Is Chinese New Year a public holiday in Thailand?
Although Chinese New Year is not a public holiday in Thailand, many families take off work and travel to spend time together to pay respects to their ancestors.
What traditions are considered good luck for Chinese New Year?
Wearing new red or bright color clothes is considered lucky as it represents happiness and a bright new beginning. Dumplings, oranges, noodles, and rice cakes are considered lucky dishes to eat during Chinese New Year.
What should you avoid doing during Chinese New Year?
Some things that are considered bad luck on Chinese New Year's Day include; - washing your hair - doing household work - wearing black or white colors - crying or feeling sad - using bad language
- collecting debts
- using sharp objects
- eating tofu or beancurd