Southeast Asia is a place of many traditional and spiritually colored wonders. When traveling to Southeast Asia, it is possible that visitors will encounter a lot of very special and unique festivals sent by local people from all over the world. If your Southeast Asia trip coincides with a festival, you’re in luck. The festivals in this part of the world are unlike those anywhere else. From the planet’s largest Songkran water festival in Thailand to Vietnam’s Lunar New Year and even tropical Christmas in Singapore, the festivals in Southeast Asia are an unforgettable cultural experience for visitors. Let’s take a look at the famous big festivals in Southeast Asia in this article and start planning your next trip!
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General overview of Festivals in Southeast Asia
Festivals in Southeast Asia are diverse and rich. However, all the festivals in Southeast Asia are rooted in a common regional origin, which is the agricultural production of wet rice. A festival is a cultural event organized by the community. The structure of the festival usually has two parts: the ceremony part and the festival part. A ceremony is a system of actions and movements to show respect for the gods and to give thanks to the gods and ancestors for their protection and protection. Reflecting people’s sincere aspirations in front of a life that they have not been able to live.
An association is a cultural, religious, and artistic activity of the community that derives from the needs of life. The festival often takes place in a series of games such as setting off firecrackers and splashing water to express the will to pray for water and rain. Take a look at some notable festivals in Southeast Asia below to see where they are similar and different.
Outstanding festivals in Southeast Asia
Songkran water festival-Thailand
Songkran is perhaps the largest and most famous water festival in Southeast Asia and around the world. It attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists, who all want to participate in the biggest underwater war on the planet! Even some elephants joined in, spraying water from the trunks of locals and visitors. Songkran is a great excuse to pour water on friends, family, and strangers, but for the full cultural experience, always keep Songkran’s purpose and traditions in mind.
Thailand celebrates Songkran from April 13 to April 15 each year. It marks the Thai New Year based on the solar calendar when the sun moves from the zodiac sign Pisces to Aries. This also happens to coincide with the hottest time of year in Thailand. It is also a time for new beginnings, spiritual cleansing, family reunion, temple visit, and house cleaning.
The word “Songkran” is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “section” or “passing through”, denoting transformation or changing times. Buddhist devotees observe Songkran by spending their mornings visiting local temples to pray to ancestors and offer food to the Buddhist monks there. Buddhists also build sand towers, a type of sand castle resembling a Buddhist temple. They will pour water over the Buddha statues, symbolizing purification and washing away sins and bad luck from the past year, and then welcome the new year with a fresh start. Songkran is also a time to show respect to elders. The tradition of young people is to pour scented water into the hands of elders, and the elders wish them luck in return.
Chiang Mai and Bangkok are some of the best places to experience Songkran, as tourists and locals take to the streets in colorful shirts and fight hard. Phuket, especially near Patong Beach and Pattaya is another popular destination to celebrate Songkran. Thousands of Thais will bring anything that can spray water onto the street and soak up the vibrant festival atmosphere. Buckets and water guns are acceptable ways to splash water at each other. Thai people believe that the wetter you are, the luckier you will be in the new year! During this festive period, most office buildings, banks, shops, and restaurants will be closed, while some major shopping malls will generally remain open.
Bali Sprite spiritual festival-Indonesia
Every year, the Bali festivals attract hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world to Indonesia just to have the opportunity to participate in and enjoy the traditional cultural festivals here. If one day you intend to travel to Indonesia, you should choose a reasonable time to be able to participate in activities around these famous Balinese festivals. One of the most prominent festivals in Bali is the Bali Sprite spiritual festival. This is the annual celebration of yoga, dance, and music in Bali. The Bali Sprite Festival is a popular event that brings together like-minded yoga instructors and yoga practitioners of all different levels from Bali and around the world.
This event celebrates creative and spiritual diversity, featuring a blend of Indonesian and Western cultures through the international art of dance and music, colorful concerts, and performances. In the years since 2008, this festival has brought together more than 7,000 people from all over the world in this five-day seven-night festival. It is derived from the core principle of Balinese Hindu philosophy, which speaks of living in harmony with God, with nature or the environment, and among people.
The festival runs from morning to night and has loads of activities to enjoy including varied yoga classes and mindfulness workshops, a kids zone, music from international artists, and a Dharma fair where markets with local organic food stalls. Above all, the festival aims to promote positive change and spread the message of love and global peace.
Vietnamese New Year-Vietnam
Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, is the most important holiday of the year for Vietnamese people, which is counted at the beginning of the lunar year. Lunar New Year often has many different names such as Tet Ta, and Tet Co Truyen… Lunar New Year is calculated starting on the first day of the lunar year, usually 1 to 2 months later than New Year. This is considered the time to show the interference between heaven and earth, gods and humans. Tet in the Lunar New Year means the weather (here represents the weather) according to the 4 seasons in the year Spring – Summer – Autumn – Winter, a cycle that ends and has special meaning for the economy.
It can be said that this is the most important occasion of the year when the children and grandchildren in the family will fully gather despite living in different places around the country and prepare the most solemn trays of rice to offer to the ancestors’ altars. first. From ancient times until now, there has always been a notion that the arrival of the Lunar New Year will drive away the bad luck of the old year and welcome better hopes for the new year. Therefore, this is the time chosen by many people to start work for the year and a good time to start a business thanks to the luck of the new year.
This is also the most important holiday, according to folk beliefs, farmers will express their gratitude to the gods who have helped them in the past year. The arrival of the new year symbolizes that each person will be one year older, so everyone will give each other best wishes to hope for a more successful new year. Usually, on the first day of the New Year, children will come to celebrate the age of grandparents, then the adults will give the children red envelopes for a lucky new year and better study. For Vietnamese people, cleaning the house every year-end means removing the bad things from the old year and preparing to welcome good luck for the new year.
Banh Chung and Banh tet are two traditional cakes in the list of indispensable Tet dishes to offer to ancestors or as Tet gifts for relatives or friends. In addition, to decorate the house to welcome Tet, Vietnamese people also buy many kinds of flowers with different colors and meanings such as daffodils flower, gerbera flowers, and Chrysanthemum flowers, … After New Year’s Eve, welcome.
In the new year, the first person to enter the house will be the one who breaks the ground for the family. According to the concept from the past until now, the person who broke the ground should be the person who matches the owner’s age to bring the family a favorable business year, good health, and a harmonious family. These are the most typical features of the most important holiday in Vietnamese culture.
Tropical Christmas Festival – Singapore
If choosing an Asian country to visit at Christmas, Singapore is a perfect choice. The annual “Tropical Christmas” festival will be held in Singapore. This is an age-old custom that is celebrated every year. The Christmas Light Festival is one of the most popular festivals in Singapore. The festival, which takes place from November to January every year, is the biggest festival of the year for Catholics. It will be the season of shopping and entertainment with sparkling Christmas lights and interesting gifts given by Santa to children.
These days, all avenues such as Orchard and Marina Bay, Tanglin, Scotts, and Bras Basah are brightly lit, and the most attractive performances attract many tourists and pedestrians. threshold. Shops and hotels competed with each other to decorate beautifully to win the title of “best building”. In the shops, the angelic voices of carols can be heard because there are special activities for Christmas. This is also the time for all visitors to comfortably shop with the biggest discounts of the year.
The Philippines has many festivals all year round, it’s hard to choose one that stands out the most. However, we had the pleasure of attending the Sinulog Festival a few years ago and had such a good time that we had to choose this festival as a reference! The Sinulog is an annual Catholic festival held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, attracting approximately one million people each year, from all over the Philippines and around the world. This is a religious festival that celebrates important historical milestones in the religion of the Filipino people. The word Sinulog means ‘motion of the water’, describing the forward-backward movement of the Sinulog dance you’ll see performed during the day.
The main event is a large street parade that lasts about 12 hours! As you make your way through the crowds, you’ll see all sorts of costumes from elves to death, as well as some famous Filipino characters (if you recognize them). Giant ornate floats, drummers, trumpeters, and dancers make their way through the streets, and then the parade turns into a massive street party, reminiscent of Carnival in South America.
Sinulog was originally a dance performance in honor of the miracle of Santo Nino – the Child Jesus before the 1980s. It was later expanded into a unique festival. Sinulog is not only a memory of the Child Jesus but also a link between the past and the present of two religions: Traditional Religion and Christianity. You will see frames with his picture carried on the parade route throughout the day. To welcome the unique Sinulog festival, Filipinos have had to prepare impressive traditional costumes. In shopping centers, there are also a variety of rental services for festive items as well as things for home decoration. Visitors can come to see and choose to buy the most unique traditional costumes.
Bon Om Tuk boat racing Festival-Campuchia
Held at the end of the rainy season, on the night of the full moon of November, the Cambodia Water Festival takes place over three days, with the main attraction being the large-scale dragon boat races taking place on the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh. Celebrations can be found on a smaller scale all over Cambodia, but the biggest celebrations are found in the capital, Phnom Penh, where parades, fireworks, and a wide variety of food are served. the street that accompanies this big day. The festival not only celebrates the beginning of the dry season in Cambodia but also the unusual natural event that occurs in the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River.
The Tonlé Sap River is perhaps the only waterway in the world that flows in opposite directions at different times of the year. From November to May, this river empties into the mighty Mekong like any other, however, when the monsoon comes, the accumulation of water forces the river to change direction and flow back into Tonle Lake. Sap. On the night of the full moon in November, the festival runs for three days, with the main attraction being the large-scale dragon boat races on the Tonlé Sap River. More than 400 boats with well-trained jockeys participate in the annual regatta.
After a catastrophic stampede in 2010 in Phnom Penh, where 347 people were killed, the Cambodia Water Festival was canceled for three years. It returned in 2014 but was again canceled in 2015 due to low water levels in the Tonle Sap River, however many suspects that it was for other political reasons. In 2016, the carnival and its comedic atmosphere returned to normal and we hope that continues for many years to come.
Hindu Thaipusam Festival-Malaysia
One of the most shocking festivals in Southeast Asia is Thaipusam. This festival, which takes place in January every year, is held to honor the Hindu God of War, Lord Murugan – the god who symbolizes virtue, youth, and strength, and also the god against evil according to Hinduism. Lord Murugan is the son of Shiva and Parvarti and is celebrated by Hindus around the world. The best place to witness this festival in its entirety is the multicultural capital Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia. The annual procession will take place in the capital to Batu Caves, a limestone cave located on the outskirts. Millions of pilgrims start walking at midnight and reach the caves in the early hours of the morning.
Finally, they climb 272 steps to reach the mouth of the cave, where there is a colossal statue of Lord Murugan. A feature of this festival is the procession of kavadi – a frame decorated with colored paper, glitter, fresh flowers, and fruit – which is seen as a form of repentance. In Kuala Lumpur, Hindus carrying kavadi will make a pilgrimage to the Batu cave in Selangor, where the kavadi will be carried up 272 steps to the entrance of the great cave and placed at the foot of an idol. The most attractive but equally barbaric part is “kavadi attam” which roughly translates as “burden dance”.
Devotees perform elaborate actions as a display of their devotion to Lord Murugan, including stabbing the skin or tongue with skewers or kavadi, or pulling a heavy chariot with carts. metal hook pierced the flesh. The participants seemed to have no sense of pain. They believe that this is the way to demonstrate purity, virtue, and also a way to wash away sins. 48 days before the main festival, people begin to prepare through prayer and fasting. During this time, newborn babies are shaved and you will see many couples holding their newborns to say thank you to Lord Murugan for giving them a baby last year.
Sarawak International Kite Festival
The kite is said to have been invented by two ancient Chinese philosophers. They were first made in the flat or rectangular form of paper, silk, or bamboo and were used for measuring distances, testing winds, lifting people, signaling, and communicating for military operations. It is also spiritually believed to ward off evil spirits in the sky, and Buddhist monks also use them to send prayers to the gods during religious ceremonies.
Today, they are mainly used as a form of entertainment and are the highlight of many traditional festivals, entertainment events, and international competitions. Kites nowadays come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, and there are even electronic kites that can be controlled by remote control. The large and windy space of Old Bintulu Airport facing the South China Sea is ideal for kite flying. More than 400 competitive kite-flyers from 25 countries came to show off their amazing skills in exchange for the chance to win oversized shiny trophies and the respect of their peers each year. Programs during the festival include kite flying and kite competitions, workshops, and night performances.
Boun Bang Fai( Rocket Festival)-Laos
To sum up, as a place of colorful, traditional, and spiritual wonders, in addition to the daily rituals of the people, the great festivals in Southeast Asia are also well worth exploring. Attending a local festival is one of the ways to immerse yourself in the culture of the place you visit. We have introduced the biggest festivals in Southeast Asia, you can plan your trip to enjoy the joyful atmosphere with the people of Southeast Asian countries. The question to ask now is when will be your next trip to this wondrous Southeast Asian land? We hope our article is useful to you. We will be back in many other Southeast Asian travel articles, stay tuned.