5..4..3..2..1..Happy new year!! Yes, this would be something we normally heard everywhere on the midnight of 31th December. Some might thought that why the happy times were getting past too quickly. But wait, if you’re around Asia, you could have same kind of happy feelings on those New Year celebration nights repeatedly over a period of six months. Forget countdowns to midnight and “the ball dropping” in Times Square. In Asia it’s all about water fights and silk dragons dancing in the streets.
Start from China, the Chinese New Year is usually celebrated in January/February with visits to friends and family, the wearing of new clothes, and the offering of food. The exact date will be determined on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Lots of food. Firecrackers can be heard in Chinese communities and lion dances are performed in the streets. Korea celebrates the Lunar New Year at the same time, but in a much quieter manner, with offerings to ancestors. Koreans will usually wear new traditional clothing on this day.
In Thailand the New Year is celebrated in April with “Songkran” most famous for the nation-wide water fight that ensues. Traditionally, throwing water was a way to pay respect to elders, but the custom quickly evolved into a way to get through the hottest days of the year.
Diwali (or Deepawali) is known as the “Festival of Lights” and is celebrated in October/November by Hindus who mostly live across many parts of India and Nepal. Diwali is celebrated over a period of five days and include religious ceremonies, family gatherings, and fireworks. Clay lamps are lit and placed in all rooms of the home on the night of Diwali.
Surprisingly enough, Japan celebrates the New Year on January 1. Buddhist temples ring their bells shortly before midnight, representing the hardships and sorrows of the past year, and soba (buckwheat noodles) is eaten on New Year’s Eve to symbolize longevity. The viewing of the first sunrise of the year is considered to be auspicious.
Despite the differences, New Year celebrations in the region all have one common theme: Family. No matter what the country, New Year is a time for family reunions and gatherings, for reflecting on the year that has passed and looking ahead to a brand new beginning.