Chris Devonshire-Ellis takes a look at how various Asian countries celebrate their New Year. The complete article can be read on emerging markets blog.

Bhutan - February 3rd/4th
Known as Losar, the Bhutanese New Year is based on the ancient Tibetan Bon religion calendar, which then subsequently influenced the Chinese New Year. The term Losar is the Tibetan word for "new year." Lo holds the semantic field "year, age"; sar holds the semantic field "new, fresh." Losar is the most important holiday in Bhutan and Tibet. Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with main celebrations occurring on the first three days. On the first day of Losar, a beverage called changkol is made from chhaang (a Tibetan cousin of beer). The second day of Losar is known as King's Losar (gyalpo losar). Losar is traditionally preceded by the five-day practice of Vajrakilaya, and often falls on the same day as the Chinese New Year (occasionally with one day or with one lunar month difference). Losar is also celebrated by the Yolmo and Sherpa tribes, although different regions in the country have their own respective new years.

Cambodia - April 13th/14th
Cambodian New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey in Khmer) literally means "Enter the New Year," and marks the holiday that celebrates the New Year. The holiday lasts for three days beginning on New Year's Day, which usually falls on April 13th or 14th, and the end of the harvesting season. The farmers enjoy the fruits of their harvest and relax before the rainy season begins. The holiday takes the form of three days of festivities; "Maha Songkran," derived from Sanskrit, is the name of the first day of the New Year celebration--and is the ending of a past year and the beginning of a new one. People dress up, light candles and burn incense sticks at shrines. The members of each family pay homage to offer thanks for the Buddha's teachings by bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves three times before his image. For good luck, people wash with holy water their face in the morning, their chests at noon, and their feet in the evening before bed. This day is followed by Virak Wanabat, the second day of the New Year celebration. People contribute charity to the less fortunate, help the poor, servants, homeless people, and low-income families. Families attend a dedication ceremony to their ancestors at the monastery.

Tngay Leang Saka is the name of the third day of the New Year celebration. Buddhists cleanse the Buddha statues and elders with perfumed water. The bathing of the Buddha images symbolizes that water will be needed for all kinds of plants and lives. It is also thought to be a kind deed that will bring longevity, good luck, happiness and prosperity in life. By bathing their grandparents and parents, children can obtain from them best wishes and good advice for the future. 2011 is, incidentally, the Year 2555 in the Buddhist Era calendar.

India - (various dates)
Owing to the vast cultural and ethnic diversity of India, New Year's Day is celebrated in different times of the year at different places. Generally, the lunar calendar (the Hindu calendar is also based on the movement of the Moon) has been the base of calculations from ancient times. Most of these celebrations are based on the months in the Hindu lunar calendar.

Bihu
Rongali Bihu (Also called Bohag Bihu) is celebrated in mid-March. March 15, its celebration marks the first day of Hindu Solar calendar. It is a time of festivities as spring arrives and happiness abounds. It also marks the advent of seeding time.

Ugadi
Ugadi is celebrated as New Year's Day in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The name Ugadi is derived from the name "Yuga Adi," translating to "the beginning of a new age." It is celebrated on the first day of the Hindu month Chaitra, which marks the onset of spring. It is believed that Lord Brahma began creation on this day. Houses are given a thorough cleaning, people don new clothes and special dishes are prepared well ahead of the festival.

Gudi Padwa
Gudi Padwa is celebrated as New Year's Day in Maharashtra. It is celebrated on the same day as Ugadi (i.e., the first day of the month Chaitra). Courtyards of rural houses are cleaned and plastered with fresh cow dung. Designs called Rangolis are drawn on doorsteps. People wear new clothes and special dishes are prepared. Lord Brahma is worshipped on this day and the gudi, Brahma's flag (also called Brahmadhvaj), is hoisted in every house as a symbolic representation of Rama's victory over Ravana.
This article was written by Chris Devonshire-Ellis for 2point6billion.com, which focuses on news from the emerging economies of India and China.

« »