With January ushering in a new calendar year, those new to living in Asia will soon discover that the festivals and holidays celebrated here can differ from those back home. Whether you’re staying put in your new host city or planning to travel around the region, a wealth of fun awaits. These are some of the most exciting festivals in Asia to look forward to…
Chinese New Year
Widely celebrated across Asia, Chinese New Year’s Day falls on 16th February in 2018, while in China the holiday is celebrated with public holidays from the 15th through to the 21st. This year, we welcome in the era of man’s best friend and the Year of the Dog.
The Thai New Year is celebrated with a little less spark, but no less fervour. Signalling the start of spring, crowds take to the streets across Thailand on New Year’s Day (13th April) for a nationwide water fight – balloons, water guns, buckets and a range of other vessels are deployed, with the biggest celebrations taking place in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. This is the perfect time to visit for those looking for a party, but if you’re not keen to partake it’s best to avoid.
Where it is celebrated: Thailand
The Hindu festival of colours has become synonymous with the vibrantly coloured powdered paint that is thrown as the celebrations are taken to the street. Originating in India, Holi is now celebrated the world over. In 2018, the festival takes place on 2nd March.
Where it is celebrated: India
Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is said to originate in honour of Qu Yuan of the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC) who perished after falling out of favour with the king of the Chu state. Local citizens rushed out in boats to retrieve his body, throwing rice balls into the sea to encourage the fish to leave his body at peace. Flash forward two millennia and the day has turned into an enormous sporting competition, with a strong participation among expat communities.
Celebrated across Thailand and in nearby Laos, Loi Krathong (also known as the Floating Basket festival), sees thousands of people take to the riverside to set handmade containers made from leaves and flowers afloat. The parcels often contain edible offerings and a single candle. The festival takes place on a full moon during the 12th month of the lunar calendar and in 2018, falls on 23rd November.
Where it is celebrated: Thailand
The Hindu festival of light is celebrated every autumn across India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Singapore, among other nations. Falling in 2018 on 18th October, the festivities can last up to five days, and are signalled by the decoration of homes with candles and lights and the consumption of mithai desserts.
The Mid-Autumn harvest festival takes place on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, on a full moon. In 2018, the festival takes place on 24th September. It is widely celebrated across Asia, and has been near-synonymous with the mooncake delicacy that is eaten and gifted during this time – a small pastry with a red bean or lotus paste, traditionally finished with an egg yolk in the centre.
Hungry Ghosts Festival
This Taoist festival is held at the end of the ghost month, a time when ancestors and ghosts are said to roam the human realm. Paper joss offerings and incense are burnt to appease the roaming spirits who inhabited the land for over a fortnight. In 2018, the Hungry Ghosts Festival falls on 25th August.
Predominantly observed by the Tamil community, Thaipusam commemorates the victory of Parvati vanquishing the demonic Soorapadman. It is commonly celebrated with large-scale processions of worshippers with spiked body piercings. In 2018, Thaipusam takes place on 31st January.