New Year Celebrations in Indochina Countries

Different in details but sharing same spirits, New Year festivals across Indochina countries including Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos are mostly fulfilled with religious and traditional activities to farewell bad lucks of passing year and welcome new lucks of coming one.

1. Tet in Vietnam

Based on Lunar Calendar, New Year celebration in Vietnam, called as Tet holiday is held on about January or February annually.
 

The main meaning of Tet is family reunion. People living in a far place will come back their hometown. They return home to visit grandparents, parents and worship before their ancestor’s altar to show homage.
Before Tet, the atmosphere is really bustling. Tet market becomes colorful, various and pulsating by sellers, buyers and numerous Tet goods. People decorate their house with fresh flowers and traditional trees, comprising kumquat, peach blossom in the North and golden apricot flower in the South. A whole family together cook traditional dishes such as “chung” cake (square glutinous rice cake), Tet jam and spring rolls. A beautiful 5-fruit-tray on altar is indispensable.
During Tet lasting 3 days, people dress stunning costumes then visit their relatives, neighbors, teachers, friends, colleagues and tell them best wishes. Children and elders are given red envelopes (lixi) containing lucky money notes. People go to pagodas to pray for a safe and sound life and a thriving year.
>> read more Vietnam Festivals and Holidays

2. Thingyan in Myanmar

The traditional New Year Water Festival in Myanmar, known as Thingyan, which means “change”, is organized from 13rd to 16th April. It lasts over 4 days: Akyo-nei (Thingyan Eve), A-kya nei, A-kyat nei and A-tet nei (the final). The fifth day is Hnit hsan ta yet nei (New Year’s Day).
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On Thingyan occasion, Thaya Min God from the heaven come down to the earth on his annual visit. At the exact time of Thaya Min God’s arrival, booming of cannon sounds. After that, traditional rites are carried out to welcome the God.
Good humor prevails during the festival time. People with hoses and even buckets, pots and cans of water splash to any passers-by. Colorful cars or carts are driven everywhere to douse people. Children use water pistols to drench their friends and relatives. In big cities like Yangon, water pipes and hydrants in gardens, water balloons and even fire hoses are all used for the festival. Water symbolizes for purity, which can clear away all sins, diseases and bad lucks. By splashing water to each other, Burmese hope to begin a new year with a cleansed soul.
No passer-by can escape from drenching, except monks, elders, sick ones and of course pregnant women. Soaked then being laughed, as the spirit of Thingyan, is called as cheer and friendship.
All corners of the country become absolutely jubilant and vibrant. Burmese damsels apply thanaka on face, pin sweet scented yellow Thingyan flowers (Padauk) on hair and dance on street.
On the final day, some people still sprinkle water onto others and say an apology, something like “Thagya Min God left his water tube and he will come back to get it.”
The New Year’s Day starts, young people wash hair for their adults by beans and barks of acacia rugata tree. Young girls join in the manicure and hair washing ceremony held for the most senior citizens in their community. The old ladies are supplied paste of sandalwood or thanakha. Fish and even bigger animals are released back to lakes and rivers with the wish: “I release you once, you release me ten times.”
>> refer other important festivals in Myanmar

3. Bunpimay in Laos

Known as New Year Water festival in Laos, Bunpimay is taken place from 14th to 16th April. On this occasion, Laotian pray for a life of proliferation, sprouting and budding.
Before Bunpimay Eve’s Night, Laotian cleanse houses, prepare fragrant water and flowers. Fragrant water is a mixture of water, turmeric, roasted locust-tree fruit, flower and scent. In the afternoon of New Year’s Eve Day, people gather to worship Buddha, pray and listen to teaching of monks. Subsequently, Buddha statues are brought to a private space during 3 days so as that residents can carry out Buddha bathing ceremony. Scented water sprinkling into Buddha then is collected and bring back home to splash into everyone to get luck.
 

Laotian splash scented water even to monks, pagodas, trees around pagodas, houses, worship objects, animals and even production tools. To show respect, youth douse water to elders to wish them being long-lived and thriving. Friends drench friends. Laotian believe that water can wash away sins and bad lucks, bring again clean, healthy and long-lived life for the new year. Wettest ones will be happiest. Usually, best wishes are given before soaking others.
Another tradition is building sandy stupas or mounds on beaches or pagodas’ ground. Sandy mounds are decorated by flags, flowers and white cloth strings. They symbolizes for Phoukaokailat Mount, where 7 daughters of Kabinlaphom kept their father’s head. Today, Lao peoples also throw white powder during the celebrations.
Animals like turtles, fish, crabs, birds or eels are released. Buddha statues are decorated by fresh flowers which are picked up from gardens.
On Bunpimay days, Laotian extremely attach special importance to eat “lap”, especially businessmen. In Laotian, “lap” means “bud”, which symbolizes for well-being and prosperity. If “lap” is not delicious, a whole new year will be filled with bad lucks. So it is cooked really carefully and sophisticatedly. Lap is the spirit of Laotian in new year. People can send best wishes to others by “lap”. Families receive lots of lap will be hoped to have many lucks in the year.
On the New Year’s Day, guests stepping the first-foot to the house will be tied a round of red or green thread to wrist. This symbolizes for health and happiness.
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4. Chol Chnam Thmay in Cambodia

This is the traditional new year celebration in Cambodia, held from 13th to 15th April every year. Beside Buddhist, Khmer people believe that annually there is a god (Tevoda) in the heaven sent down to the earth to take care human life.
Chol Chnam Thmay lasts 3 days or 4 days in leap year. During this festival, Cambodian families wear nice costumes, clean and decorate houses and prepare fully food. Everybody goes to visit and wish each other for a year filled with fortune, health and prosperity.
 

On New Year’s Eve night, people offer feast, incense and light lamps to see off old Tevoda and welcome new Tevoda. Each shrine has 5 branches of flowers, 5 candles, 5 incenses, 5 green rice flakes and many fruits. Entire the family pray and make obeisance before the shrine.
On the first day, Cambodian held great processions. People dress beautifully, bring along offerings (including candles, incense and fruits) and go to pagodas on exactly good time. The second day is for meal offering rite and building sandy mounds. In the morning, families cook meal then offer to monks at pagodas. In the afternoon, Khmer people organize the building sandy mount ceremony. They build a big mound in the centre, which symbolizes for universe, and other small mounds in 8 directions around. This custom shows the wish of good rain and happiness for life. On the third day, people do rites of bathing Buddha statues and bathing monks by fragrant water. They bath for senior monks, then carry them to cemeteries to do requiem for spirit of deseaced people. After that, everyone comes back home, bath Buddha images in just their house, offer feast with best wishes to grandparents and parents and beg them to forgive for failures and errors in the passing year.
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