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HOMA’s Guide to Chinese New Year in Phuket

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. 2024 is aligned with the ‘Year of the Dragon’ which is 5th in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. 

Chinese Zodiac sign for 2024 to 2035
Chinese Zodiac signs
 

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 2024

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 10th of February.

 

Year of the Dragon

As mentioned earlier, 2024 marks the ‘Year of the Dragon’ which is considered to be the most powerful of all 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. The Dragon is the most revered creature in Chinese mythology and is often associated with strength, power, and good fortune. 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.

Characteristic Of The Year Of The Dragon
Year Of The Dragon Information
 

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 (9 February) to the Lantern Festival on the 24th of February. Although New Year’s Day is on 10 January, the city of Phuket holds its annual Chinese New Year Festival a couple of days later.

 

In Thailand, people of Chinese descent commonly observe 3 significant days from 8-10 February. Let’s take a look into the importance of each day throughout this period;

 

8 February: 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.

Spending Day, 1 day before Chinese New Year's Eve
Spending Day, 1 day before New Year’s Eve
 

💡 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.

 

9 February: 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.

 
Offering to family ancestors on chinese new year
Offering to family ancestors – Source: Samyan Mitr Town
 

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.

10 February: 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.

 
Year of the Rabbit Decorations in Phuket Old Town
Chinese New Year Parade in Phuket Old Town – Source: ตรุษจีนย้อนอดีตเมืองภูเก็ต
 

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 15-17 February, 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. 

Chinese Dragon Procession Parade
Chinese Dragon Procession Parade – Source: FB ตรุษจีนย้อนอดีตเมืองภูเก็ต
 

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; 

  1. Chinese Shrines around Phuket Town to witness merit-makers offering fruits and praying to the gods for a prosperous new year; Kuan Im Teng Shrine, Jui Tui Shrine, and Samkong Shrine.

  2. Sapan Hin Park – View the beautiful decorations of red lanterns as they flood the shrine.

  3. Phuket Old Town (Around Thalang Road, Dibuk Road, and Phang Nga Road)

  4. Wat Chalong – Although not a Chinese temple, it hosts a large festival during the Chinese New Year.

  5. 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.

 
Luca Dotti leads HOMA staff to pay respects at Samkong Shrine
Luca Dotti leads HOMA staff to pay respects at Samkong Shrine
 

Here are some more traditions and beliefs:

  1. 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.

  2. On new year’s day, you should avoid washing your hair as it represents washing away the good luck received from the rituals.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. No use of sharp objects such as knives and scissors. The Chinese believe that these sharp objects can cut through your good fortune.

  7. Eating dumplings, oranges, noodles, and rice cakes are considered lucky while tofu and beancurd are considered bad luck.

🧧 Gong Xi Fa Cai! 🧧

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