One thing I love about living in Thailand is the abundance of New Years celebrations! Coming up to my own traditional New Year, I can't help but compare the differences between them.
Our own celebrations centre around drinking and partying, whereas my masseuse said to me yesterday that he plans to spend a few hours seeing the New Year in on the 31st December by meditating in Chedi Luang Temple. And he is Thai- it's not even his own new year!
The Thai new year is Songkran, during the second week of April, during which the streets of Chiang Mai go crazy and everyone joyfully throws buckets of water over each other, a lot of the time with ice or dirty moat water. A sad reflection of where the tradition originated: with water anointing the Buddha and the cleansing of the spirit ready for the new year. But of course, the new version is much more fun!
Chinese New Year, in February, has its food, dancing shows, and beautiful costumes. But again it is cause for revelry and traditions are often forgotten.
This is why I was impressed to visit a temple celebration on 13th December for the Shan New Year. They put on a wonderful performance of traditional costumes, dances and sword shows. Many stalls selling traditional food, and fun and games for kids - and not a drop of alcohol in sight! Of course the Shan are a minority here in Chiang Mai, but the celebration showed me how devoted they are to each other and their traditions.
I found out about the Shan New Year celebrations through my writing for the grassroots organisation Thai Freedom House, who run an arts and languages education centre (among many other things) for Burmese refugees, many of whom are Shan. Watching these children proudly dress up and dance for their families, their culture, and the homeland that many of them have never seen, was a moving experience.
I will write more about them, and Thai Freedom House, in future blogs.
For now: enjoy the photos!