Have you ever wondered if Thailand, a country known for its rich cultural heritage, celebrates the Lunar New Year, otherwise known as Chinese New Year?
The answer is yes, Thailand does celebrate the Lunar New Year, especially in Bangkok where there is a large Chinese population, and has one of the largest China Towns in the world.
Thailand has around 7-10 million Chinese residents, which makes up around 11% of the total population. The Lunar New Year is therefore quite a big deal, unlike Christmas in Thailand which is celebrated purely for tourism purposes.
In this guide, we’ll share with you how the Lunar New Year is celebrated in Thailand and what you can expect when visiting this time of year.
Do people from Thailand celebrate Lunar New Year?
While Lunar New Year is widely celebrated by the Chinese community residing in Thailand, it’s not an official national holiday in Thailand.
However, it holds a special place in the hearts of many Thai people, particularly those with Chinese ancestry or who live in Thai-Chinese communities.
The Thai-Chinese community diligently preserves the customs and passes them down from generation to generation, creating a unique blend of Thai and Chinese traditions.
The good news is that nothing closes down during Lunar New Year, and restaurants, hotels and bars are very much still operating. You may find though that some establishments will have Sunday opening hours, or reduced hours, during this three-day celebration.
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Is The Lunar New Year the Same as Songkran?
In Thailand, Lunar New Year is lovingly referred to as “Chinese New Year” due to its deep-rooted association with the vibrant Thai-Chinese community.
Many people confuse the Lunar New Year with Songkran, which is the Thai New Year, and the festival that Thailand is so well known for. These are two different festivals and take place at different times.
The Lunar New Year is celebrated around the time of the first New Moon of the Lunar Calendar, whereas Songkran is celebrated on the 9th April each year.
How does Thailand celebrate Lunar New Year?
Thailand’s Lunar New Year celebration is celebrated in traditional fashion, with a burst of colors, flavors, and sounds that captivate both locals and visitors alike.
Temples and shrines will be busy places throughout the three days, as people come to pray, make offerings and blessings for the year ahead.
Around midday on the first day of Chinese New Year, China Town in Bangkok will be packed with food stalls, vendors, and acrobats. You may see dragon dancers and blessing stores and restaurants, as well as putting on a show in the streets for curious bystanders.
Like in traditional Chinese culture, the exchange of vibrant red envelopes known as red Packets, or “ang-pao” in Chinese and “Lai See” in Cantonese, is a custom. These symbolize good fortune and prosperity for the year ahead, spreading joy and happiness among family and friends.
You may find in shopping malls there is a Wishing Tree decorated with red packets, red and gold streamers and pictures of the Lunar Animal of the year.
Firecrackers and fireworks are popularly ignited during Chinese New Year in Chinese cultures, but in Thailand you won’t see many fireworks. You may hear the sounds of fire crackers at night, as well as nighttime Dragon Parades where the dragon costume is illuminated with LED lights.
Some houses are adorned with red paper lanterns, illuminating the night and signalling the start of a prosperous new beginning.
Across Thailand you will find celebrations, either with parades or dragon dances, during this festive period. But it’s usually the larger cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai that sees the biggest festivities take place.
Is Thailand busy during Chinese New Year?
If you’re thinking of visiting Thailand during the Lunar New Year, you may be wondering if the country is busy with tourists.
Rarely do people come to Thailand specifically for the Lunar New Year, though you will find China Town in Bangkok being the exception, as it experiences a surge of visitors from both near and far.
However, Lunar New Year usually falls in January or February, which is one of the busiest months in Thailand. This means that regardless if you’re in Thailand for the Lunar New Year or just to backpack for a month, the country will be busy with people.
What makes Lunar New Year seem busier than usual, is that the streets are adorned with elaborate decorations come alive with food stalls, cultural performances, and a palpable sense of excitement, which brings locals out to experience the fun as well as tourists.
The Best Places to Experience Chinese New Year in Thailand
Now you know what to expect from the celebrations of the Lunar New Year in Thailand, here are some great places to visit to celebrate it!
1. China Town (Yaowarat), Bangkok
The best place to lose yourself in the enchanting Lunar New Year traditions is none other than Yaowarat, Bangkok’s vibrant China Town. Step into a world where ancient traditions come alive amidst a tapestry of sights, sounds, and flavors that will captivate your senses.
Embark on a sensory journey as you wander through bustling streets adorned with ornate lanterns, each one illuminating the air with a soft, mystical glow. Listen to the symphony of crackling firecrackers and the rhythmic beats of traditional drums, filling the atmosphere with an electrifying energy that is truly infectious.
China Town is a gastronomic adventure unlike any other, no matter what time of year you visit. From sizzling street food stalls serving delectable dumplings and succulent roasted meats to hidden gems tucked away in narrow alleyways, offering tantalizing delicacies you won’t find elsewhere. China Town is the place to find an explosion of flavors!
But China Town is not just about food and festivities. Yaowarat’s rich history and cultural heritage shine through its ornate temples, where devotees pay their respects and seek blessings for the coming year.
Witness the mesmerizing dragon dances and lion performances, steeped in centuries-old tradition, as they weave their way through the lively streets, captivating both young and old.
In China Town, ancient traditions meet modern excitement, making it the ultimate destination to celebrate Chinese New Year in Thailand.
2. Chiang Mai
Another culturally rich city in Thailand is Chiang Mai, which is a city that embraces tradition and celebration like no other. The city comes alive with the spirit of the Lunar New Year, filled with captivating events and activities.
From lively parades featuring elaborate dragon and lion dances to mesmerizing firework displays that light up the night sky, every moment is infused with joy and excitement.
Warorot Market is the place to be during the three-day holiday, since it’s a bustling hub of activity and the epicenter of the festivities during Chinese New Year.
Explore the vibrant stalls adorned with red lanterns, indulge in delicious street food, and immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere as locals and visitors come together to celebrate.
Beyond the traditional customs, Chiang Mai offers many important landmarks to visit in Thailand, from a unique blend of ancient temples to breathtaking natural landscapes.
Phuket is well known for being the island of nightlife and partying, and the Lunar New Year is no exception. With colorful processions, lively celebrations, and a unique cultural blend, Phuket offers an unforgettable experience during this auspicious occasion.
Phuket’s Chinese New Year celebrations showcase the island’s rich heritage and traditions, especially in Old Town Phuket. Here the lively atmosphere is hard to escape, as streets come alive with vibrant decorations, noisy firecrackers, and mesmerizing dragon dances.
Witness the fusion of Thai and Chinese cultures as locals and visitors join together to celebrate the year ahead.
The Hyatt Regency Phuket Resort is known to go all out for Chinese New Year, with a huge feast for its guests plus a Lion Dance.
While Lunar New Year may not be an official national holiday in Thailand, it is embraced and celebrated by the Thai and Chinese community across the country, resulting in a captivating fusion of Thai and Chinese traditions.
The usual cultural traditions and affairs apply in Thailand, such as the exchange of red envelopes, enchanting lantern displays, colorful parades, and thrilling dragon dances.