Solar New Year Celebrations
Many Asian countries are celebrating Solar New Year this week on April 13th-15th. It is a time to end the old year and welcome the beginning of the new with blessings and gatherings in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, as well as in some regions of Pakistan and India.
Bangladesh - Bangla Nababarsha
People start the celebration by having everything cleaned – taking a bath in the morning, then donning their finest clothes. The day is spent visiting relatives and neighbors with loud festivities and street parades.
Cambodia / Khmer - Choul Chnam Thmey
Celebrated after the farmers gathered their harvests, the New Year symbolizes a new start for the people by renewing their lives and asking for forgiveness for any bad habits from the past year. In the spirit of charity and gift giving, offerings are made to monks in temples and those who are less fortunate.
Laos - Pi Ma
The liveliest holiday of the year, floral water is splashed on each other as a ritual to bring happiness and good weather, as well as symbolically cleansing and sending bad things away with the old year. It is also a religious time to ask for forgiveness at the temples with a candlelight procession.
Myanmar - Thingyan
The eve of Thingyan is the start of a slew of religious activities. Buddhists observe the Eight Precepts, visiting temples and monasteries offering alms. Traditionally, the sprinkling of scented water in a silver bowl, a practice that continues to be prevalent in rural areas to metaphorically “wash away” one's sins of the previous year, and has now culminated to using garden hoses, water balloons, and water guns to douse on another.
Nepal - Navavarsha
Locals spend early morning in prayers and worship. Street dances, parades and family gatherings include traditional games, pageants and contests throughout the colorful festival
Sri Lanka – Sinhala and Tamil New Year / Aluth Avurudda
On the last day of the year, Sri Lankan restore their homes and surroundings, bathe in herbs and oils to purify the body and view the moon. Firecrackers and rhythmic beats on the rabana (a one-sided traditional drum) greet the new year, while hearths are lit, followed by paying respects to elders and neighbors, receiving anointing at the temple and then games and celebrations for the rest of the day.
Thailand - Songkran
Aside from being known as the “wildest water fight in the world”, the traditional customs for Songkran includes cleaning homes, wearing colorful ornate clothing, and release fish or birds back into the wild. Thais in the South have kept it simple with three rules: 1) Work as little as possible and avoid spending money; 2) Do not harm other persons or animals, and 3) Do not tell lies. In the Northern, locals celebrate with setting off gunfire or firecrackers to repel bad luck. On the next day, people prepare food and offerings to the monks at the temple.