Anyone living anywhere even remotely chilly knows one thing for sure – the winter blues are tough. Between all of the snow, the cold and the clouds, the wintertime can be a long and dreary season that sometimes seems to never end! The same goes for some parts of Asia, where locals are counting down the days until the welcoming of a brand new season – the Spring!
In Asia, the Springtime isn’t just about flowers blooming and temperatures warming. In Asia, the Springtime is marked by the beginning of a new Lunar year, so renewal and fresh starts are a big part of the festivities. If you’re lucky enough to be travelling in China during the welcoming of Spring, you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice on where to celebrate, with countries around the region gearing up to welcome the Spring season in their own unique ways. Here are just some of our favourite ways to welcome the Spring season in Asia – and some of the best places we get to experience the welcoming of Spring alongside our travellers!
China, Singapore, Hong Kong
Possibly the most colourful of all Springtime festivals is the Spring Festival, held just after the Lunar New Year in China and a handful of surrounding countries. For many, the Chinese Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival are indistinguishable – with the classic scarlet red and gold motif central to both festivals. But while the time before the lunar New Year is focused on cleaning and sacrifice to ancestors, the Spring Festival is decidedly more cheerful! The celebrations usually last a full week following the New Year, and keeps the festivities rolling for a full seven days (sometimes referred to as Golden Week in China).
Spring Festival is celebrated in Chinese communities around the world, but the biggest are in China, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. At nearly all of them, you’ll likely find massive street celebrations, parades and light shows with symbols of the Chinese Year zodiac (in 2015, that’s the goat or sheep!). Meanwhile, don’t expect to hear conversations including the words “ghost”, “death”, “illness” or “broken” – these are strictly forbidden in conversations during this first week of the New Year, and could bring bad luck!
Spring Festival in 2015 begins on February 19 and continues until the 24th.
Just like China’s Lunar calendar and Spring celebrations, Thailand’s Songkran Festival is simultaneously a welcoming of Spring and of a new lunar year! Thailand’s Lunar calendar, however, dictates that the new year begins later than the Chinese calendar – usually celebrated in April. In the same traditions of purification, renewal and cleansing, the Songkran Festival is often referred to as the “water festival”, and traditionally included a spiritual cleansing of self with washing and sprinkles of water on the heads of those that prayed.
Songkran Festival, though, took on entirely new flamboyance in recent years. Modern Songkran Festival throughout all of Thailand is famous for the thousands of Thai locals who take to the streets to pelt each other with water balloons, water guns and water buckets! Celebrated throughout the country, Songkran Festival is best in big cities like Chiang Mai or Bangkok. Although still a time for cleansing, Songkran is now more about the celebration of a new year and new season – and probably one of the only times you’ll see a Buddhist monk wielding a water gun!
Songkran Festival in 2015 begins on April 13th and continues until April 15th throughout the country.
China and Hong Kong
Although the Lantern Festival marks the end of China’s Spring Festival, it is considered it’s own separate holiday, and we’re glad it is! In China, the significance of the Lantern Festival goes back for centuries, with a focus on local children and their small “pilgrimages” to their locals temples carrying lanterns. For the locals, this is a chance to celebrate the letting go of their “old selves” and renewal, but for visitors, it’s a perfect chance to witness Chinese cities lit with thousands of colourful lanterns and watch as locals make their way to brightly decorated temples.
In Hong Kong, however, the Lantern Festival has taken on a different meaning entirely, and is now referred to as “Hong Kong’s Valentine’s Day”. With a focus on young singles, Hong Kong’s version of the Lantern Festival is all about finding true love, and includes dozens of matchmaking games and activities. Those with the brightest lanterns are considered good luck, a belief borrowed from the Lantern Festival’s history of matchmakers who would escort young singles to matchmaking events carrying lanterns. In China, the Lantern Festival shed this matchmaking significance many years ago, but the traditions live on in Hong Kong.
Ready to explore Asia this Spring? Let us create a customised journey to the very best of Asia’s Springtime festivals!