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Chinese New Year is for all islanders

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Dr Kosol Tang-Uthai is the deputy mayor of Phuket City and president of the Thai Peranakan Association, a group dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of Phuket’s unique Chinese culture. Dr Kosol earned his doctorate from Mahidol University, and has been serving as president of the association since 2007.

Here, he explains the importance of the Chinese New Year celebrations to Phuket residents and of preserving the Chinese and Phuket culture for younger generations.

PHUKET: This is a very important time of the year for many Phuket residents, and the island is very busy as Thai-Chinese people bustle around preparing their homes for Chinese New Year celebrations, or get ready to visit close relatives elsewhere.

Chinese thoroughly enjoy this time, as they work hard all year long. In the old days, they never took time off during the year, so the new year period was the only time during which they felt comfortable about taking a break. No one is permitted to work on new year’s day, which falls on February 19 this year.

Although this is a time for house cleaning and to visit relatives, food preparation is also an important part of this holiday. People take time and care to cook their most favorite dishes for themselves and as offerings to their ancestors.

It is our duty to inherit and preserve this culture for younger generations. If we fail to do so, the traditions will be lost in Phuket society – much like Chinese language has been. It is rare to come across a young Baba or Nyonya [male or female] Peranakan Chinese-Thai who can speak Chinese fluently these days.

Phuket is a place where many cultures, races and religions come together, such as Chinese, Malay and Muslim. The purpose of the Chinese New Year celebration is not just to preserve our cultural heritage, but to bring all people together to celebrate as one.

Though Peranakan Chinese make up the majority of the population in Phuket, you will see Muslim and Malay people setting up food stalls during the many Chinese New Year events that the island will host.

Unlike many other provinces in which Chinese New Year events have slowly disappeared, Phuket’s celebrations get bigger and better each year. We started with only one street – Thalang Road – but have expanded to Krabi and Phang Nga roads, among others.

A Chinese New Year festival, organized by the Phuket City Municipality, will be celebrated from February 26-28. It is also our tradition to celebrate the next five working days after Chinese New Year. This is unique to Phuket.

This is the 16th year that the Chinese New Year festival has been organized by the Phuket City Municipality. It also inspired the Cultural Department to hold its Phuket Old Town Festival during the celebrations.

This year, with the full support of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports Phuket office, we will have five streets and five stages on which to celebrate. The main stage will be set up at the 72nd Anniversary Queen Sirikit Park.

A Chinese opera and a Chinese performing arts troupe will be the highlight of the event. Locals will present their prized Phuket foods along the streets in front of their houses, and the Phuket Town Food Association will bring dishes and hold cooking demonstrations on Phang Nga Road.

Last, but not least, we will hold our biggest parade yet from 5pm on February 26, starting on Phang Nga Road and finishing at Queen Sirikit Park.

Join us for the exciting celebrations to ring in the Chinese New Year. This new year will be represented by a female wooden sheep. If your lucky element is wood, fire or earth, you will live well in 2015.

 

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