This year the Chinese New Year fell on St Valentine’s day giving the consumer market a double whammy of things to celebrate and bargains to be had. In Bangkok it was feted as being the day of Luck and Joy with encouragement in the form of advertising to go out and spend money everywhere. Many of the big shopping malls had massive sales promotions. Elsewhere in Asia, things were a little more downmarket.
We were in Phnom Pen, Cambodia a few days before the Chinese New Year. One day we went into a bank where there was a beautiful money tree – a large flowering branch in a huge vase had been decorated with lanterns, red and gold money envelopes and other ornaments. I asked if I could take a photograph of it but was refused on the grounds that it might interfere with the bank’s security cameras. Perhaps if I had said I wouldn’t use flash I might have been allowed to take a couple of photos. Not to worry, there were plenty of other photo opportunities.
We were on the Thai island of Koh Samui for the actual Chinese new year celebrations. However we managed to miss the most important ones as they were apparently celebrated in a different part of the island from the last time we were here and we were unable to find out any information as to what was happening and where. Even when I went to the Chinese temple all they could tell me was that the following Saturday people would be banging the big drums and fakirs would be putting long needles through their cheeks. I think I’ll give that one a miss!
Interior and exterior shots of the Chinese temple – one of my favourite places.
This is the year of the tiger so tigers feature heavily in advertising and elsewhere. This paper cut was used in an advertisement at the local pharmacy.
This cutesy tiger adorns the door of a jewellry shop (very difficult to photograph because of the reflections).
I spotted this fabulous tiger on the door of a hairdressing salon in Siem Reap, Cambodia
The streets had red lanterns strung across them and lanterns were hung in front of many of the shops.
Amongst the first settlers on Koh Samui were Hainan Chinese and many of the businesses here today have Chinese links. In the shop which sells paraphenalia for temples and festivals there were mounds of joss papers, paper jewellry, paper clothes and shoes, paper money and other consumables – all of which will be burned, a symbolic burning of all things material.
Special cakes and sweets are produced and the rice cakes have special characters printed on them.
Even Dunkin’ donuts got in on the Valentine act with this sticky offering
In the days following the new year celebrations visits to local businesses are made by troupes of lion dancers and they bless the altars set up in front of the shops/hotels/restaurants and the premises, accompanied by the setting-off of strings of very noisy firecrackers.
We last experienced a Chinese new year in Thailand in 2006 and you can read about it here.