New Year’s is not always fireworks and kisses. In Asia, it’s a time to ward off bad luck, celebrate good fortune, and commemorate family.

And since most of these countries follow the lunar or solar calendar, their festivities take place in February, March, or April, instead of on January 1st. Some cultures usher in the New Year with water gun fights, while others chase off evil spirits with demonic effigies.

Intrigued? We’ve got you covered. See how these 12 Asian countries ring in the New Year.

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival)

When: Late January until Mid-February

According to legend, Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called “Nian” — a bull and lion-like creature that appeared in China on New Year’s Eve. Learning that the monster feared fire, loud noises, and the color red, the villagers covered their houses in red and lit firecrackers to scare him off.

People still honor the origin story, hanging red lanterns and parading through the streets as dragons and lions. Afterward, they feast on celebratory dishes like longevity noodles, which symbolize a long life, and give children red envelopes (hongbao) stuffed with money to encourage good fortune in the New Year.

Vietnamese New Year (Tet Festival)

When: Late January until Mid-February 

Because the Chinese brought the Lunar New Year to Vietnam, Tet celebrations also revolve around family and reunions. This means welcoming far-flung relatives and the spirits of deceased ancestors for a dinner of traditional food like bánh chưng, a rice cake stuffed with beans and pork, and mang, a bamboo shoot soup.

They also buy flowering peach trees to fill their homes with life and good fortune.

Here is our dedicated blog article about Tet – Vietnamese New Year

Thai New Year (Songkran)

When: April 13th – April 15th 

Derived from the Sanskrit word meaning to pass and move into, Songkran signals the beginning of a new solar year. The first day of celebration transforms Thailand into a giant water fight. But it’s not just fun and games: Thais believe that water washes away bad luck, so throwing it is actually a sign of respect and well-wishing.

On the 14th, also known as Family Day, people spend time at home with their loved ones. Lastly, on the third day of Songkran, Thais visit wats (Buddhist monasteries) to ask for forgiveness and give alms.

Here is everything about Songkran - Thailand New Year

Burmese New Year (Thingyan Festival)

When: April 13th – April 15th 

Taking place from April 13 to 16 each year, the Buddhist festival of Thingyan is celebrated over four to five days, culminating on the Lunar New Year Day.

Water throwing is the distinguishing feature of this festival, and you’ll find people splashing water at each other almost everywhere in the country.

Thingyan traces its roots back to a Hindu myth. The King of Brahmas called Arsi, lost a wager to the King of Devas, Thagya Min, who decapitated Arsi. Miraculously, the head of an elephant was placed onto Arsi’s body, and he then became Ganesha.

The Hindu god was so powerful that if his head was thrown into the sea it would dry up immediately. If it were thrown onto land it would be scorched. If it were thrown up into the air the sky would burst into flames.

Thagya Min therefore ordained that Ganesha’s head be carried by one princess after another who took turns for a year each. The new year thus has come to signify the this annual change of hands.

Here is more detail about Thingyan Festival

Cambodian Khmer New Year (Choul Chnam Thmey)

When: April 13th – April 15th 

The Khmer New Year marks the end of the traditional harvest season, a time of leisure for farmers who have toiled all year to plant and harvest rice. April represents a rare break from the hard work, since it's the hottest and driest month of the year, making it all but impossible to work for long in the fields.

As the harvest season winds down, farming communities turn their attention to the rites of the New Year ahead of the rainy season that arrives in late May.

Until the 13th century, the Khmer New Year was celebrated in late November or early December. A Khmer King (either Suriyavaraman II or Jayavaraman VII, depending on who you ask) moved the celebration to coincide with the end of the rice harvest.

The Khmer New Year is not strictly a religious holiday, although many Khmer visit the temples to commemorate the holiday.

Here is everything about Khmer New Year

Laos New Year (Boun Pimay)

When: April 13th – April 15th 

Pimay, or Boun Pimay (litterally "Festival New-year") is the most widely celebrated festival in Laos. When it is usually celebrated for 3 days in Laos, Luang Prabang celebrates it for almost 1 week.

During this time, we can participate to the festival of water where all the people throw water to each other (with water guns or water bazookas, buckets with colored water). Using water, but also charcoal, wheet and red color to paint the faces, makes this festival a full experience of a south and smiley war.

The first day, on the morning until midday, a big market take place in the big avenue of Luang Prabang, providing products coming from all Laos and abroad. After lunch, time comes to go to the island close to Ban Xieng Men, where a big party is organized. Lao Buddhist traditionally take a bath in the Mekong River to purify from all the past sins. In the island, people are making sans pyramids, for fortune and luck.

The 2nd day is the black day, day free years. There, one can legitimately do what you want. We will clean his house, to prepare for the next day, the first day of the year. On this day the grand parade takes place : around 200 monks, and more than 1000 people wearing traditional clothes and costumes march to Wat XiengThong, the most holy temple of the town (see pictures).

The last day of the festival marks the start of the new year. This day many families will hold a Baci at their houses to welcome Lao New Year as well as to wish their elders good health and long life. Some might respectfully ask for forgiveness from their elders for things that they did in the past year that might have hurt their feelings unintentionally. And at the same time they give the elders gifts.

In late afternoon or evening of the last day, in the temples, the Prabang statue is coming back to the Wat Mai. Devotees go there to put religiously water on the holy statue, asking good luck for the coming year. After that, a vien tien – a candlelight procession – takes place around the wat and that is the end of the Lao New Year celebration.

Here is more detail about Laos New Year

Korean New Year (Seollal)

When: Late January until Mid-February 

Koreans commemorate the first day of the lunar year by donning their hanbok (traditional clothing) and gathering for charye, a ritual prayer to their ancestors for peace and good health. Eating the eumbok (ritual food) passes their ancestor’s hopes and blessings on to them.

After the meal, younger generations pay respect to the elderly with a sebae (bow) in exchange for sebaedon (New Year’s money).

Japanese New Year (Shōgatsu)

When: 1st January 

Before 1873 Japanese New Year was celebrated on the same date as the Chinese New Year, but from that year onward Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar and began celebrating it on January 1st as Western countries do. Japanese send special New Year’s cards to their friends and family, timing it so the post arrives by January 1st, and various special foods are cooked and eaten during this period, such as sweetened black soybeans, fish cakes, boiled seaweed and mashed sweet potato with rice cake. On the 7th day of January, a special seven-herb rice soup is prepared to cleanse and ease over-exerted stomachs.

When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, bells ring out across Japan, tolling a traditional 108 times – symbolizing Buddhism’s 108 human sins and freeing the populace of their 108 worldly desires. On New Year’s Day children are given gifts of money and traditional New Year’s games are played. Performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony are also traditionally held during this period; the symphony was introduced by German prisoners during the First World War and Japanese orchestras have been performing it since 1925.

Tibetan New Year (Losar Festival)

When: Late January until Mid-February 

On Losar Eve, Tibetans prepare a special dumpling soup, guthuk, with symbolic ingredients like chilies, rice, and coal. Once they get their fill, they run around their villages with firecrackers and straw torches to scare off ghosts and demons.

Families wake up early on Losar to place animal offerings for the gods in their household shrines. They also hang new multi-colored prayer flags to promote peace, compassion, and wisdom. When the wind blows, it carries their messages with it.

Balinese New Year (Nyepi)

When: March 17th

In the days preceding the Hindu New Year, Balinese worshippers parade through the streets with demonic effigies (ogah-ogahs) and whip one another with fiery coconut husks to chase away evil spirits.

When the day of Nyepi arrives, the whole country shuts down. The government forbids lights, cars, and work, and the citizens spend the day in silence to focus on self-reflection. Some believe this quiet tricks the spirits into thinking everyone has left the island, in hopes that the demons will, too.

Sri Lankan New Year (Aluth Avurudda)

When: 13 or 14 April

The Sinhala and Tamil New Year (Aluth Avurudu in Sinhala) is a very important occasion for both Sinhala Buddhists and the Tamil Hindus of Sri Lanka. The uniqueness of this occasion is the celebration of the beginning of the New Year as well as the ending of the old year at the auspicious times stated by astrologers. There is also a time period in between, which is called the Nonagathe (neutral period). During this time, people stop work and engage in religious activities. In many village temples, the chiming of the temple bell is accompanied with the beating of drums to make the people aware of the exact auspicious time to perform each ritual.

Rituals of Aluth Avurudda begin with a bath on the last day of the old year and viewing the moon on the same night. People apply Nanu (a herbal mixture), on their head and body before bathing. This herbal, according to belief, has a purifying effect on the body and the soul.

Mongolian New Year (Tsagaan Sar)

When: Late January until Mid-February 

Tsagaan Sar is a family festival, which is celebrated on the first day of the lunar new year to put some cheer in the endless winter months and mark the beginning of spring. Tsagaan Sar is the most widely celebrated holiday and it has been celebrated in the traditional way throughout the ages. Family ties are renewed and in particular it is a time to honor the elderly.

Tsagaan Sar normally falls on the first day of a spring month, when winter ends. This is January or February on the Gregorian calendar, depending on the phases of the moon and leap year. Celebration of the lunar New Year’s Eve is called ‘bituun’, and in the evening, every family prepares a big meal with lots of fresh food for a feast. A big wrestling match is broadcast live throughout the country.

People ride their best horses during this holiday, prepare new clothes in advance, and we're the most elegant ones. Homes are cleaned up thoroughly on the eve.

In the morning of a New Year, a housewife offers the first cup of tea to gods in all directions. After the sunrise, people start to greet each other. While greeting, they stretch their arms and the younger supports the elbow of the senior (zolgokh). The senior or elder people wish a long and happy life to the young. While exchanging snuff bottles in greeting, people usually talk about how they passed the winter.

During Tsagaan Sar, various ceremonies are inevitable, such as visits to relatives, exchanges of gifts, and lots of eating. Guests are welcomed warmly and are served with tea and food.

In addition to food, hosts give a present to visitors and sweets to children. The ”khadag” is folded in a special way to show trust, as part of the greeting, with the folded edge facing the elder. Mongolians attach a great significance to the first day of a New Year; people perform an “Ovoo” ceremony to thank the god and nature.

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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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