”Sawas Dee Pee Mai” is how Thais say “Happy New Year.” Did you know that Thailand actually celebrates the New Year three times? Thai people celebrate the internationally-recognised New Year on 31 December, the Chinese New Year around January to February, and Thai traditional New Year in April, which is known as Songkran. Below are the activities that Thais do to celebrate the calendar New Year.
Praying New Year’s Eve night
Various Buddhist temples in Thailand host a prayer ceremonies on the night of December 31. During the ceremony, a white thread is tied to a Buddha image, passed by the monks, and then overhead of those praying in the temple. The thread is used to channel the spirit world and pass merit along to everyone. Prayer ceremonies typically start around 8pm or 9pm, and end around 1am.
Making merit on the first day of the year
To welcome the New Year with a good start, most Thais will go to a temple to make merit with family members in the early morning of January 1. People will listen to dhamma, pray, and offer lunch to the monks. After that, they will visit the main hall to pray to the Buddha statue, make a wish, and practice fortune telling by using “Chi Chi Sticks” or “Siam Si” as Thais call it.
Many Thais pray about health, money, success at work, and happiness. They will also wish for relatives and loved ones who passed away to have a happy afterlife. If they can’t manage to visit a temple, people will offer food, drink, and flower to a monk walking past in the morning. Some also go on a religious trips to famous sacred spots and look out for lucky numbers for lottery tickets.
Many people move from other provinces to Bangkok just for work, so during the holidays, many will travel back to their home province, crowding bus terminals and train stations. Many will save money throughout the year to give to their relatives. Others will bring a gifts.
Throwing a barbecue party or “moo kra ta”
With many spreading time with family during the holiday, some will throw a barbecue, or as Thais call it, “ma kra ta.” Each family member will spend time together preparing ingredients, eating, enjoying karaoke singing, and talking about life throughout the year. Some will exchange gifts too.