When talking about celebrating the “new year” in Thailand, you need to first ask, “Which one?” since there are many of them.
On the January 1st New Year, much the same as the rest of the world, the Thai people celebrate the new year by attending countdown events around the country. At the stroke of midnight, there are fireworks and a lot of cheering. However, Thai people have only been celebrating the 1st of January as the first day of the year for less than 70 years. Before that, the Songkran Festival, usually in March or April until the date was fixed, was the traditional start of the year.
However, Thai people will still celebrate the Songkran New Year in a much bigger way. The third “new year” celebration in Thailand is the Chinese New Year which usually comes at the end of January or in February. Many Thais have Chinese blood so they like to celebrate this festival too.
In the lead up to 31st of December, Thai people often exchange gifts and cards. Quite a few people will attend countdown events or just watch them on television. As the new year is often over a long weekend, many people will go up-country for a short holiday. Popular destinations are places like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai that have cool weather at this time of the year.
However, not everyone will spend the new year partying or drinking. A number of Thai people who say that they will attend meditation retreats over the new year. Others will visit their local temple to make merit either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
Like elsewhere in the country, the local people came out in their thousands to take part in chanting sessions and to give food and other essentials to the monks. People with Chinese ancestors go to local Chinese shrines. Others go to their local temple to receive blessings from the monks.
They make merit by giving food, releasing birds or fish and also listening to sermons by the monks. People will also wear new clothes as they believe that all of this will bring them good luck in the new year. So, as you can see, although Thai people love to have fun, the new year holiday is not all about getting drunk.