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Chinese New Year in Phuket, Thailand

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Chinese New Year – or Trut Chin in Thai languarge - comes every year in late January and early February. It involves a period of celebration, fun, rememberance, religious ritual and good eating that goes on for several days.

The Chinese communtiy on Phuket Island has been and is important in the island's development so it is natural that the holiday is prominently celebrated on the island for three days.

The celebrations on Phuket Island center in Phuket town, which is the center of the island Chinese community. For a period of two or three days, various roads in the area of the Sino-Portuguese Road are closed to vehicular traffic.

So people can enjoy eating traditional new years food at foodstalls, watching processions and parades, watching fireworks and listening to firecrackers, enjoying historical and cultural displays, and contemplating theatrical performances. Among these activities are Chinese opera, Kung Fu demonstrations, and Chinese folk dancing.

Generally, the festivities begin at the Sapan Hin Park and then move to the area around Queen Sirikit Public Park, Thalang Road, Krabi Road and Soi Rommanee. The festivities continue throughout each day until an official closing time of 11:00 PM but go on unofficially well beyond that.

During the times of celebration, public ceremonies are held in the six major Chineses temples in Phuket town and in those around the island.

Throughout this time of celebration, the color red figures prominently as it memorializes the mythological basis of the holiday – a struggle between peasants and a monster, "Nian", that terrorised them and was ultimately defeated during a 15 day period at the beginning of the year.

The monster was afraid of the color red!! Firecrackers intermittently break periods of silence in an effort to drive out the spirits of the old and welcome those of the new.

The celebrations among those in Phuket observing the 15 day holiday follow a certain traditional sequence. Before (but not during) the New Year activities, homes and family alters are scrupulously cleaned. Homes are decorated with red colored paper and perhaps painted red.

Ceremonies are conducted to "send" the Gods, so that the activities of the family during the passing year may be reported in the other world.

Clothing is bought to be worn during the New Year. On the eve of the New Year (Chuxi), families have a feast featuring pig, duck or chicken, or in some cases, fish. At midnight on the eve of the first day of the New Year, all doors and windows in the home are open to permit the old year to depart.

On the first day, of the holiday, the most important, the deities of the other world must be welcomed to the New Year.

It is a day of "New Years Visits" in which the young visit the oldest and most senior members of the extended family.

New clothes are worn and the young are given red packets filled with money of an even amount, odd amounts are unlucky.

Platters of oranges and tangerines and trays of dried sweet fruit are available to guests, however.

Some families may invite Lion dancers into their homes to help rid the dwelling of bad influences.

During the rest of the holiday, various Gods – most noteably the Jade Emperor of Heaven (his birthday is the 9th day), Tian Gong, the God of Heaven, and General Guan Yu - are honored, as are the family ancestors. Friends visit each other and frequently give each other gifts, which usually consist of foods.

People engage in "shou sui" in that they reminisce about the past year. Most of all during this time, people seek to insure that during the new year, they will have good luck and avoid bad luck.

Some practices one might observe - or observe people try to avoid - during or before the 15 day period are:

To have good luck

  • Open windows and doors on New Years Eve to release the old and the bad
  • Turn on the lights to scare aways spirits and ghosts of misfortune.
  • Make sure the house is clean to welcome the new and the good.
  • Eat candy to bring about sweetness in the new year.
  • Gamble on New Year's Day (?!) to begin the good luck of the year.
  • Wear new slippers to step into good fortune.

 

To avoid bad luck

  • Do not get a haircut, which involves cutting away good luck.
  • Avoid washing hair, which also involves washing away good luck.
  • Do not talk about death in the first few days.
  • Do not buy books, the word "book" is a homonym for "lose"
  • Do not buy a pair of shoes, the word "shoes" is a homophone for the Cantonese word "rough"
  • Do not buy a pair of pants, the word "pants" is a homophone for the Cantonese word "bitter"
  • Do not sweep the floor the first day, as it will sweep away luck and good fortune.

 

If you follow the inhabitants of Phuket Island in observing these time honored rules and traditions during your visit to the Island at New Year's Time, then, hopefully, the Gods will smile on you and grant you good luck and good fortune.

Video of Chinese New Year in Phuket

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