Main picture credit Nina R on flickr
Chinese New Year, this year the Year of the Ox starts on 12th February, is widely celebrated throughout Southeast Asia and often celebrations extend over a number of days or even weeks.
This year however we are in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic. Cases in a number of countries in the region have seen a recent spike and Malaysia and Thailand have recently imposed additional restrictions to reduce spread of the virus.
Governments throughout the region will be hoping that numbers of Covid cases fall or remain low in the next couple of weeks to enable them to relax restrictions to some extent.
It is likely that celebrations will need to be far more muted than in previous years. However it may prove to be very difficult to complete restrict celebrations in these incredibly important celebrations in many countries.
Where is Chinese New Year Celebrated in Southeast Asia?
In Brunei Chinese New Year is a national holiday although there have been attempts in the past to reduce celebration.
Although not an official holiday or even the start of the New Year in Cambodia, Chinese New Year is widely celebrated and often entails families travelling from all over the country to spend time as wider family groups.
In Indonesia Chinese New Year is known as Imlek and is a national holiday celebrated by most Indonesians not just those with Chinese descent thought to be around 3 million people. Schools and most businesses are generally closed.
Laos does not generally celebrate Chinese New Year.
Around a quarter of the population in Malaysia is either Chinese or of Chinese descent. Chinese New Year is therefore celebrated throughout the country and is a national holiday.
A number of areas in Myanmar have Chinese communities and here Chine New Year is celebrated with all the colour and enthusiasm you would expect. In other areas the focus is more on the Burmese New Year in April.
Filipino-Chinese communities throughout the Philippines celebrate Chinese New Year every year in hope of attracting prosperity, closer family ties and peace. There are parades and dragon dances, mostly centred on Chinatowns in many towns and cities.
Chinese New Year is usually one of the largest celebrations throughout the year in Singapore with widespread celebrations taking place.
Some estimates put the Chinese population in Thailand as high as 14% of the total population. However many others may identify as Thai-Chinese. Chinese New Year is therefore celebrated throughout Thailand and this year, for the first time, will be an official public holiday.
Timor has granted “tolerance holidays” to enable the large Chinese community to celebrate their New Year.
Vietnam New Year, or Tet, falls at the same time as Chinese New Year. Tet in Vietnam is like Christmas, New Year and any other celebration you can think of all wrapped up in one.
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