In Thailand there are countless ways to launch the New Year. In fact, there are at least 4 recognized New Year’s celebrations including the international New Year on January 1, and the Chinese New Year which comes this year on January 31. The Northern Thai (Lanna culture) New Year will be on the night of the full moon of the 12th with the national Loy Kratong festival of lights coming in 2014 on November 6, and the Central Thai traditional New Year which is a three day water-festival on April 13-15 every year.
Since this is Thailand, we celebrate them all.
There is no one way to observe the international New Year, but for those who are interested, which means countless thousands of people, the old year will be sent scurrying off by fire crackers and the new year launched, here in the North, by sending aloft tissue paper hot air balloons. Loy Kratong, the festival with the strongest emphasis on colored lights, is the night when most khom loy (hot air balloons) are sent into the sky. There are so many that some airlines have suspended flights that evening in and out of Chiang Mai. But a lot will be launched at midnight on December 31.
Countdown parties may not match the festivities at the Sidney Harbor Bridge or in Times Square in New York City, but the New Year gets a good send-off and anybody who tries to sleep early will be awakened at midnight. Since the official launching of the New Year is at midnight, it is for people young enough to like night-life who tend to be old enough to drink. The police have a grid of checkpoints on all highways to discourage drunk driving, although it seems that mayhem prevails for an hour or two. Parties are going on everywhere, with the biggest one in Chiang Mai at the plaza in front of the Ta Pae Gate.
Then on and about January 1 gift giving gets the year off to a good start. In Thai society with a strong “patron-client” tradition, the heads of schools, organizations and owners of businesses can count on being visited by their best clients, employees and students and prime customers by their grateful suppliers and merchants. It would be a good idea for children to remember their parents, too, because Thai Children’s Day is coming soon on the second Saturday of January.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.