Everyone loves New Year. Whether in Thailand or not, the first day of the year is when you welcome the new and say goodbye to the old — the time of change and a new beginning. However, not every country has the same New Year celebration, and Thailand does have its own tradition for this special occasion.
Like Western cultures, Thailand celebrates New Year on the eve of the 1st of January. Thai people celebrate with a big meal with their family and loved ones. Many companies also hold parties for their employees to exchange gifts. Thailand also celebrates Chinese New Year and its own New Year (Songkran) in April.
At first glance, the Thailand New Year celebration may not seem unique. But some particulars and nuances separate Thai New Year from other nations. Read on to immerse yourself in the joy of festivities and celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Thailand.
Do They Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Thailand?
When the end of December comes, the festive atmosphere of New Year takes over Thailand. Many companies make the last week of the year a holiday. People walk worry-free on the streets. You can see shops everywhere hanging giant “NEW YEAR SALE” banners and putting up light decorations.
Many Thais, especially parents, choose New Year as a time to visit their relatives. Whether they live a thousand miles apart or just next door, they will go to the house where the oldest family members live. Seniority is paramount in Thailand. You don’t want to bother the elder with long road trips or flights.
Once everyone has gathered at the elders’ house, it is time for the catch-up. This is a normal catch-up conversation the westerners make — full of “so what’s new?” and “how have you been?”
When evening comes, the actual celebration begins. This is where the whole family would sit down at the same table and enjoy the meal together. Some families might choose to eat out. The others might prefer a homemade meal. Either way, it is a time of laughter and smile where everyone in the family gets to see each other and indulge in tasty food.
After that, they might do present exchanges. Most families that do are families with small children. The others usually don’t and focus on the fun of the meal.
Nevertheless, most Thai teenagers and young adults favor something fancier than a family meeting — like parties. They choose to get drunk with friends at the bars, go see exhibitions at the shopping malls, or enjoy the countdown festivals in the city.
During this long holiday, some companies throw parties for their employees. It could be a small drinking dinner or a full-blown buffet with Karaoke and a dance floor. They sometimes exchange presents too.
4 Places to Celebrate New Year’s Eve in Bangkok
In Thailand, you choose the style of New Year Celebration. Whether you love to chill, dance, countdown, or even see religious rituals, Thailand has something for you. Here are 4 places to visit in Bangkok on New Year’s Eve. Choose one that suits you the most.
1. Lebua No.3
If relaxing with music, rich liquor, and friendly conversation under the starlit sky sounds appealing, you should go to Lebua No.3.
This rooftop cocktail bar sits on the 52nd floor of Lebua Hotel and Resort, located on Silom Road, Bangkok. On such a high floor, you can feel the breeze while enjoying the view of Bangkok at night to your heart’s content.
On the food side, Lebua No.3 offers a range of dishes and menus from appetizers, the main course, to dessert — both local and foreign. The drink is, without a doubt, top-notch. After all, this is a bar in an exquisite hotel in the capital. (Source)
2. The Westin Grande Sukhumvit Hotel
When it comes to New Year’s eve, a “party” might pop up in your mind. And the best place to set yourself loose is the dance floor of The Westin Grande Sukhumvit Hotel. Located near Asok BTS and Sukhumvit MRT, you can reach this hotel by just taking trains.
The party is held in the “Altitude” room on the 25th floor. You will find live DJs playing music non-stop, so you can dance as much as you like. And when you are tired, feel free to go out on the balcony and enjoy the Bangkok night view.
You can reserve your place at the party with the starting price of 900 THB (around 25 USD). (Source)
3. ICON SIAM
You can’t discuss New Year’s Eve without mentioning a countdown event. And the most fascinating countdown site in Thailand is arguably at ICON SIAM.
This massive shopping mall never does anything plain and simple. On the last day of 2021, they held the “Amazing Thailand Countdown 2022” festival at their Chao Phraya riverside area.
The highlight of the event isn’t the countdown itself. It is a 7-minute long multimedia firework show. Since the firework exhibition was so long, it had to be divided into seven parts. Each part has its own theme and story to tell. (Source)
So if you love countdowns and fireworks, make sure you put ICON SIAM on the list.
4. Any Temple Close to You
If you want to see people practicing Buddhism on New Year’s Eve, you can visit any temple you like. Most Buddhist temples in Thailand hold an event where people see the New Year by praying.
The larger the temple, the bigger the mass. Sometimes, thousands of people dressed in white gather together to pray in the temple’s courtyard. These prayers can take hours. Some temples start the event from the last sunset until the first dawn of the year.
Thai people do this because they believe it will attract fortune. The more they pray, the better their life will be. (Source)
Now that you know where to go for New Year, you might wonder, “does Thailand have other New Years’ to celebrate?” The answer is yes. Read on to find out.
How many ‘New Years’ does Thailand celebrate?
Like many other countries, Thailand celebrates the international New Year on January 1st while celebrating its national New Year at another time. However, that’s not the only other New Year the Thai celebrate.
Thailand celebrates 3 New Years: International New Year, Songkran or Thai New Year, and Chinese New Year.
1. International New Year
Amongst the holidays, the international New Year has arguably the most significant impact on the country. You can celebrate this special moment no matter where you come from, what kind of job you do, or which religion you are in. There is always something for everyone.
You can see festivities everywhere you go. Shops and stores decorate their places with lights and New Year wish banners. New Year songs and Tunes can be heard on TVs and radios. Even the street itself is filled with the air of celebration and happiness.
The countdown festival on December 31st is the highlight of this holiday. The local authorities will close down some roads and organize an event where people gather and welcome the New Year together. There will be street food areas to fill your stomach, mini-concerts to enjoy, and other performances to be fascinated with.
Once January 1st comes, you can either continue partying or get a long rest. But if you are a Buddhist or interested in Buddhist culture, you can visit a temple. They perform all sorts of rituals like offering food to the monks, chanting sutras, and paying respects to Buddha’s images.
2. Songkran or Thai National New Year
Before COVID-19, Songkran was the most anticipated holiday for Thais and Foreigners. It is one of the main reasons tourists visit Thailand in the first place.
Songkran is a festival that happens on April 13th -15th. People across the country will come out on the street and throw buckets of water at each other (literally). You can do this all day without anyone getting mad at you. After all, Thailand’s temperature peaks in April; everybody needs to cool off.
So, if you happen to be in Thailand during this time, expect to get wet no matter what.
But if the bustling street with people trying to spray each other with water guns is not your thing, you can still find serene and spiritual aspects of this holiday.
The original purpose of this “New Year” day was for a family reunion. The younger generations visit their elders early in the morning to perform a ceremony called “Rod Nam Dum Hua.” In this ritual, the young pour water on the elders’ hands and clean them. In return, the elders give New Year wishes and blessings — asking the angels and benevolent spirits to protect their children. (Source)
3. Chinese New Year
With more than 10% of the population of Chinese descent, Thailand sees massive Chinese New Year Celebrations annually. (Source)
In the old days, the Chinese celebrated this day on the first day of spring, marking the coming of the new farming time. However, Thailand doesn’t have spring. It only has a hot season, rainy season, and cold season. As a result, Thai people celebrate Chinese New Year on February 1st. (Source)
What people essentially do on this day is pay respects to the Chinese gods and their ancestors. The Chinese Thais believe that doing so will attract fortune to their lives.
There are many ways people show their respect to the deities. The most popular one you see everywhere is food offerings. They prepare loads of sacred food, pastries, fruits, tea, and liquors on the table with incense sticks. (Source)
These foods are for the god to “eat” first, then they eat what’s left (which is basically everything.)
You might hear the continuous bang of firecrackers in the early morning too. These firecrackers are believed to scare away the evil spirits from entering the ceremony and stealing the sacred food. (Source)
This might be a pain for the night owls sleeping in the morning. But if you like to experience the culture, you should visit Chinatown early and see every house lighting firecrackers.
With that said, you might be interested to see what kind of food Thai people feast on during the international New Year. Is it a traditional dish? Or is it something peculiar? You can learn more in the next section.
What Do Thai People Eat on New Year’s Day, and Where?
Unlike those in China and Japan, you won’t see historical dishes designed to celebrate the coming of the New Year in Thailand.
But that doesn’t mean the Thai don’t eat anything special on New Year. They do. However, the food they enjoy on New Year is just the same as any other celebratory occasion food. And here are 3 types of cuisine Thai people eat to celebrate.
1. Korean Barbeque
Thanks to the popularity of Korean music and TV series in Thailand, everyone in the country seems to enjoy Korean BBQ.
If you have been to Thailand recently, you must have seen at least 3 different Korean BBQ stores. There are so many that it is impossible to miss. Thai people eat there when they graduate, land their first job, win a lottery, or on any celebratory occasion.
The charm of Korean Barbeque lies within its festive nature. You can chat and have fun while waiting for your meal to be cooked. Most importantly, you must be fast with your hands, or else your friend could steal the meat you’ve been aiming for the last 5 minutes.
2. Family Restaurant with Karaoke
Thai people, especially those of middle age, love to sing. So in such a joyous time like New Year, they will take all chances to grab the mike and show off for a song or two.
A delicious meal and Karaoke are a perfect combination for the Thais. That is why you will see restaurants with a Karaoke service in a jam-packed state during New Year.
The food they serve is typical Thai dishes like Tom-yum (spicy soup), fried rice, and garlic pork. However, some high-class places might serve western food as well.
3. Hot Pot at home
At the end of the day, there is no place like home. You can do and eat anything you like in your comfort zone. So, a Hot Pot at home is a perfect meal for a Thai New Year.
The recipe is easy. Prepare a soup or stock, put it to a boil in a pot, then throw anything you want to eat in there. This simple meal is the greatest when you share it with your friends and family.
Of course, if you have a Karaoke application at home, that will be perfect. Just sing the song you like and enjoy the food you choose.
3 Items You Shouldn’t Gift for New Year in Thailand
Each country has its own preference when it comes to gifts. While Thailand is quite flexible on this aspect, some families can be extremely strict about inappropriate presents.
Here are the 3 items you should avoid gifting on New Year — especially to the elders of Thai Chinese families.
1. Clock or Watch
While a watch might be a great present in the west, it doesn’t work as well in Thailand. There is a hidden meaning behind it. No matter how long-lasting the battery is, a clock will eventually stop. This represents the end of a good long relationship.
No matter how beautiful or delicate the glassware is, you shouldn’t give it to the Thai elders.
It could break and easily injure them. Furthermore, the glass itself symbolizes the fragility of a relationship. So, never give it to your lover.
A comb might look harmless at first glance, but it also has a hidden meaning you might never have thought about. Each comb tooth is separated by a chamber. This symbolizes distant or non-intimate relationships. So if you want to keep someone far away, give that person a comb. (Source)
New Year in Thailand as a Whole
Despite many minor differences from the west, you cannot deny that New Year in Thailand is also a time of joy and celebration. The nuances and particulars only add the spices to the festive mood.
If you plan to go to Thailand this New Year, never let anything stop you. You will definitely enjoy your time.
Like always, if you want to discover more about Thailand, stay guided with ThaiGuider. You might learn something you never knew about this unique country.
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