The three day festival is the largest and most important traditional event within these cultures, and usually falls around mid-April, according to the ancient Hindu calendar season, when farmers would enjoy their harvest before the monsoon season begins.
According to Lao legend, the festival started after King Thao Kabinlaphrom lost his life in a bet. Per his request, his seven daughters (representing each day of the week) took great care not to let his severed head touch the ground or there would be great destruction throughout the world.
DURING THE FESTIVAL
Sand stupas or mounds, are built before being offered to the monks as a way of making merit. The stupas are decorated with flags, flowers, white lines lines, and splashed with perfumed water. The stupas represent Mt. Sumeru, the mountain where King Thao Kabinlaphrom’s head was kept.
In the Burmese community, Thingyan is a favorite time for shinbyu, novitiation ceremonies for boys in the tradition of Theravada Buddhism when they will join the monks to spend a short time, or longer, in a monastery immersed in the teachings of Buddha, the Dhamma. It is akin to rites of passage or coming of age ceremonies in other cultures.
The New Year is the only time of the year when young Cambodians are allowed to meet and engage with potential marriage partners.
“Representing the last day of the old year.”
Thais perform the Rod Nam Dum Hua ritual in the first day which is National Elderly Day. The ritual involves the young pouring fragrant water into the palms of the elders as a gesture of humility and to ask for their blessing.
For the Lao people, the first day is called Sangkhan Luang and is a day when people clean their homes in preparation for the New Year. Buddha images are taken down so that people can pour perfumed water on them. The water that runs off the images is then used to pour on family, friends, and homes.
Cambodian celebrate the first day very similar to the Lao people. To welcome a new god or angel to protect the world in the year ahead, they clean and decorate their homes and themselves. This ensures that the New Year does not start with bad luck or unhappiness.
“The “day of no day”, that falls in neither the old year nor the New Year.”
For the Thais, the second day is officially National Family Day. It is a day to wake early to give alms to monks and spend quality family time together.
For Laotians, the second day is a day of rest called Sangkhan Nao, when all work is forbidden and only fun activities take place such as visiting with friends and family. Laotian elders don’t allow young people to stay still as it is believed sleeping or staying still will get one sick in the coming year. At nighttime, there is usually a Lamvong (circle dancing) party with plenty of food and drinks.
For Cambodians, the second day also known as Virak Wanabat or day of giving, is a day where the young would give gifts to the elderly, children receive new clothes while the poor are given money and clothes.
“Marking the start of the New Year.”
The start of the New Year is called Sangkhan Kheun Pii Mai to the Lao people and T’ngai Lieang Saka or new beginning to the Cambodians. It is the most joyous day of the festival. People will go to temple and make offerings to gain merit.
While New Year in The Park 2019 is only a one day festival, expect a day full of food, culture, and fun! Join in the new year celebration at Glenhaven Park on Saturday April, 27th 2019, from 9:30AM to 6:00 PM. We look forward to seeing you all there. Stay tuned with our blog posts in April when we highlight what to expect and how to navigate this year’s celebration!