These countries in Asia know how to celebrate the New Year

Continue the celebrations well into 2020 with fun festivities from China, Thailand, Vietnam and Bali, including dragon dances, parades, fireworks, epic water fights – and complete silence.

A teenage boy riding a moped down a street
  • Erin Craig
  • January 2020

Not every calendar circles January 1. Asia has many ways to measure the year and ring it in. We showcase the New Year parties you can enjoy beyond December 31.

Songkran Water Festival, Thailand

A Buddhist cleansing ritual that got way out of hand, the Songkran New Year festival is a country-wide water fight. The party begins midmorning out of respect to temple goers; after that everyone’s a target. Trade your camera for a squirt gun and join the fun. (April 13-15)

Tet Festival, Vietnam

Red and yellow are lucky colours at Tet, and the temples are awash with them. Votive offerings of flowers and incense are made during the first three days of the New Year. It’s also your opportunity to try bánh chưng, a pork-stuffed rice cake that takes two days to prepare. (January 25)

A crowd of people outside a temple
Vietnamese people flock to temples during Tet Festival to celebrate the New Year.

Chingay Parade, Singapore

The Chingay Parade is pageantry on an epic scale, with more than 5000 performers, elaborate floats and pyrotechnics. Originally a Chinese religious procession, Chingay was conceived in February 1973 after a 1972 fireworks ban that threatened to completely dampen the spectacle of Lunar New Year. Almost 50 years later it’s one of the largest parades in Asia; a two-night celebration of Singapore and the cultures that comprise it. Lavish musical numbers highlight the city’s diversity as the sky explodes in (happily enough) fireworks. (January 31–February 1)

Chinese New Year, China

A 2000-year-old tradition, the dragon dance is iconic to Chinese Lunar New Year along with stilt walking and lion dances. The dragon, which can range in length from that of a baseball bat to a soccer field, is often red (auspicious) and puppeteered by an odd number of performers (also auspicious) to scare bad luck away. (January 25)

A group of boys performing on stage with a dragon
The Chinese dragon dance is said to fend off bad luck.

Thingyan, Myanmar

April is the hottest month in Myanmar and this New Year’s festival couldn’t come at a better time. People turn hoses on bystanders, pitch bucketfuls of water at traffic and even spray passengers through train windows. Among the DJ-fuelled stages and family-friendly pedestrian zones are holiday street stands called sadudithas that feed all comers for free. The Thingyan specialty is mont lone yay baw, a sweet, coconut-dusted dumpling. (April 13-16)

Nyepi, Indonesia

Canon fire, percussion music and monstrous, burning effigies – the night before Nyepi is anything but restful. But after a cacophonous eve to chase off evil spirits, Bali’s New Year dawns with silence. The entire island unplugs for a day of meditation. No work, no play, just spiritual recalibration for the year ahead. (March 25-26)

Indonesian children kneeling with their hands in prayer
In Bali, everyone spends the day meditating to celebrate the New Year.

Khmer New Year, Cambodia

Khmer New Year is a time of reflection and charity but it’s also a time to play – and not just for kids. Cambodians of all ages gather at temples and village squares for outdoor games. Clay pots of prizes are smashed piñata-style and traditional team games such as bos angkunh (think bocce ball with fruit nuts) and chab kon kleng (tag meets chickens) are played. The game involves one person acting like a hen and another like a crow. The crow has to try and catch the chicks (other people) protected by the hen. (April 14-16)

Fascinated by Cambodian culture? Learn all about their most traditional dish here.